Help Uncover the Truth About Traffic Violence

Want to channel your anger over pedestrian and cyclist crashes into productive action? Livable Streets member BicyclesOnly has a plan for you.

rasha_shamoon.jpgThe police report revealed that the driver who killed cyclist Rasha Shamoon in 2008 had six prior convictions, and that NYPD interviewed only him and his passengers.

BicyclesOnly has launched a working group for Traffic Justice FOIL Requests. Like the federal government and most other states, New York’s Freedom of Information Law requires state and municipal agencies to make a wide range of internal documents and information publicly available upon request. BicyclesOnly’s Freedom of Information Requests for Traffic Justice StreetsWiki article is an easy how-to for the whole process. He explained to us why FOIL requests are so crucial:

While police declare most crashes to be "accidents" within hours, the details that bear on responsibility for the crash are usually kept from the public for months. By that time, most journalists  and their readers have lost interest. The crash will forever be an "accident." But the detailed information from FOIL requests makes it possible to show that many "accidents" have real and preventable causes, and that police, prosecutors and traffic engineers are failing in their responsibility to address those causes.

He pointed out that Charles Komanoff’s seminal work on traffic justice, "Killed by Automobile," would have been impossible without data obtained in this manner. For more information on FOIL requests, follow this link to a video featuring Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government (Windows Media Player required).

The FOIL requests group is a place for people to gather information about crashes, track the progress of requests, and use this information in campaign work, like this letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. Says BicyclesOnly: "Any Streetsblog reader can help foster balanced, meaningful coverage of
traffic deaths by devoting two hours and $5 or so to making a FOIL
crash request."

  • Check out, which was created by Cascade Bicycle Club in Washington to be a resource for anyone, anywhere.

    It lets you submit data not just about accidents, but also about incidents caused by design factors–anything from blind corners to low-hanging trees that need to be trimmed. Then planners, law enforcement and policy makers can see the hot spots, and other cyclists can be informed.


  • mb

    Regarding the Shamoon tragedy — I would be curious to know how police are trained to take interviews for accident reports in the case of pedestrian or bike crashes.

    When I was struck as a pedestrian the police only interviewed the driver of the car, and didn’t ask me for my version of the event (I was being treated by paramedics, but they could have asked me a few questions) — nor did they ask any questions of the many witnesses on the street.

    The police report was totally one-sided and full of inconsistencies. For example, the diagram showed that I was hit in the crosswalk (which I was), but the policeman checked the box next to “pedestrian struck, not in crosswalk.”

    How common is this? It’s worth looking into.

  • The trick is to do some damage to the automobile as it crushes your body, then the NYPD will leap into action. Here they’ve employed the fingerprinting kit to try to crack the case of the missing luxury car rims:

    Sure, there are smaller, lighter, better performing, and vastly cheaper wheels available, but why not mount your tires on giant decorative discs and leave the gaudy mess on the street for anyone to jack, then demand pubic resources to investigate this perplexing mystery.

    (Not only is it sick that property damage is taken more seriously than death and maiming, but, it’s not even that much money. $800 for 4 stupid rims? That’s less than a trip to the ER, never mind everything that comes after.)

  • Slow Rider

    In NYC you can report missing, damged or obscured traffic signs at the 311-Online links below. This includes all bicycle-related signage, just select “other/unknown” for bike-related signage in the appropriate drop-downs. Be specific when describing the particular sign and it’s location.

    The DOT actually does a good job of responding to these requests, but it can take up to 2 weeks depending on the type of sign. If you submit your email address you will receive a reply with a complaint number.

    NYC missing traffic signs form –

    NYC damaged/obscured/ traffic signs form –

    NYC Line/Lane marking complaints-

    311 Online Main Page –


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