Today’s Headlines

More headlines over at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • The runaway truck: again, the EXACT SAME THING as if a crane collapsed and no one got hurt. There would be charges. But with cars and trucks, it’s cool, man, it’s cool. Don’t worry. Even if someone (or two toddlers) got killed.

    “The near-miss happened about 8:10 a.m. after a driver for an appliance company and his assistant hopped out of their truck without locking the air brake, cops said.”

    “without locking the air brake?”

    Does that necessarily mean that the engine was still on, or necessarily mean it was turned off? Or does the air brake not depend on what the engine is doing?

    Of course the answer to that question probably only determines whether the driver committed one negligent act or two: outside of the unlikely scenario that the truck itself somehow failed, it sounds like the operator either failed to apply the air brake, or turn off the engine, or both. And of course he’s not charged for any of that.

  • My favorite part of the Post article on stressed and angry motorists is that thirty percent of them have given up on a trip and turned around because of impossible conditions. I like this because people with cars on the brain like to belittle biking as a fair-weather mode of transportation while their car will always get them there. (…unless traffic conditions are impossible)

  • I am less concerned about the truck situation because nobody was hurt. No harm no foul; naturally the owner’s insurance should pay for any property damage, and police time incurred controlling the intersection around the accident.

    Driver negligence that _doesn’t_ cause injury is much less of a problem than that which does. This dude was lucky.

  • James

    I live in Riverdale and actually agree with the Press piece as far as “fresh asphalt” goes. The roads here have been atrocious for some time and I got two flats this year while out riding due to poor road conditions – once on Broadway and once on Tibbet Ave. I know Riverdale catches a lot of hate here due to the less than progressive stance our pols often take on transit and livable streets issues, but this is case where the Press is pretty much right. The article does not mention free bridges, so IMO that little piece of snark was not necessary.

  • Gotta disagree with you Kaja; how does the lucky lack of deaths here make the whole thing okay?

    Regardless of whether this guy’s engine was running, we would prevent a lot of bad news and illness if we would just force truck operators to stop that moronic common practice of hopping out of their trucks without stopping their engines. If we cracked down on that for the bad act it is, you can bet the driver in this incident would have been more careful about securing the truck.

    Serious treatment of incidents like this one would help PREVENT the other potentially dangerous–and actually illness-causing–practice of jerks leaving trucks running and unattended. A crackown on that–already called for because of environmental reasons–would help prevent incidents like this AND the Chinatown murder, which are remarkably similar.

  • James:

    So, thank you Gotham for the fresh asphalt you have given us, and the new life granted to the suspensions of our vehicles as they make the daily trek over the [free] Broadway Bridge and into Manhattan.

    Sure, smooth roads also benefit cyclists and bus riders, but the RP editorial was all about “our vehicles,” i.e. private cars.

    I gotta say that as a resident of Inwood, this left me fairly livid. What I took from it was this: “Yeah, the subways are crumbling, but thank God we can still drive into Manhattan for free (polluting and honking our way through other neighborhoods where most people, by choice or out of necessity, take transit). Enjoy the 1 train, suckers.”

  • > how does the lucky lack of deaths here make the whole thing okay?

    Well, it’s not so much OK, as there’s been no loss of life or limb. I’m not opposed to penalties for reckless operation of heavy machinery, but we can’t equate negligence causing property damage with negligence where folks die.

    No-harm-no-foul is fundamental to liberal justice.

    Bill his employer for police time and property damage done, revoke his operator’s license, he’ll never work this job again. Isn’t that ‘punishment’ enough?

    Also, I don’t think we can ‘force’ truck operators to stop being reckless. It’s utopianism-via-cop, it’s worse than the problem we’re trying to solve.

    Revocation of license and end of career anyway is a fantastic deterrent, but we can’t even get the cops/DA to go this far.

    Let’s leave the throwin dudes in jail for actual loss of life and limb.

  • Eric

    I loved that article on Russel Crowe challenging the reporter to a bike ride. I bike commute and get some occasional snarky remarks from other employees. I would love to put some of them to the test for a nice leisurely 16 mile ride. Which is only half of my normal round trip commute.

  • Points taken, Kaja. I think all I really should have said was my usual refrain of “support Garodnick’s anti-idling bill 881. It will help prevent things like this.”

  • Word to anti-idling! He even addressed my “it’s cold outside” concern, by limiting it to above-32-degrees. Garodnick’s bill is solid, unlike the no-bikes-in-buildings crap Yassky sold us.

  • What makes you think that an anti-idling law would have had any effect on the truck incident? Your single-mindedness about idling betrays your ignorance about how these trucks work. When the truck driver stops the vehicle, he puts it in neutral and then engages an air brake. If he places the vehicle in neutral and fails to engage the brake, as appears happened here, the vehicle can start to roll. It makes no difference if the engine is idling or if it is off. In the latter case, in absence of an engaged brake, the truck would roll just the same. Also, if a truck is left idling and it is taken out of drive, there is no way it can magically place itself back in drive and cause mayhem Christine-style, as so many of your imaginations seem to suggest.

    Thus, the only way an engine running could cause one of these accidents is if the driver failed to place the engine in neutral and also failed to engage the brake, *and* the vehicle was on a completely flat surface – in the presence of even the slightest grade, gravity will take it. That’s a pretty low-likelihood scenario, don’t you think?

  • ddartley

    Nanterking, I chose the words carefully when I said that anti-idling would *help* prevent incidents *like* this. I’d also acknowledged in the first comment that the engine running may have had little to do with this incident.

    My big stretch was saying “you can bet the driver in this incident would have been more careful about securing the truck” Okay, maybe anti-idling would not have had that effect at all in this incident. But I maintain that in cases *like* this, it could. Many of these guys in the huge “I hop out of my work vehicle while it’s still running” fraternity are NOT driving “these trucks” but rather large consumer vehicles (eg vans, small trucks), where the air brake stuff doesn’t apply. Such was the case in Chinatown, such is the case all over town every day. These drivers have many opportunities to screw up in the little insufficient steps they take to make sure their vehicles don’t roll. The Chinatown guy thought he was in “park.” This guy “insists” he applied the air brake. So yeah, much stronger anti-idling would “help prevent incidents like this.”

    (Incidentally, my ignorance isn’t “betrayed,” since in my first comment I openly asked questions about how trucks which you ended up answering.)