Eyes on the Street: Reason Number 6,734,090,855 NYC Needs Speed Cams

Turn up the volume and listen for the sociopathic pacesetter about halfway through this clip. This is southbound Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, recorded with my bike-mounted camera at the intersection with Dean Street at about 9:40 p.m. last night.

Vanderbilt has become much more walkable and bikeable since DOT implemented a road diet about five years ago, converting a motor vehicle lane into pedestrian medians and painted bike lanes. By and large, car traffic is calmer. But there are still some maniacs who don’t get the engineering cues, and if they have enough space in front of them to open up the throttle, they’ll treat this crowded city street like a racetrack.

This is behavior that kills, but police aren’t ticketing the drivers who do it. That’s why NYC needs automated enforcement.

A proposal that would allow the city to set up speed enforcement cameras for the first time is alive in Albany, and we’ll have an update about it later this afternoon.

  • Jeff

    This is who we design our streets for.

  • J

    It’s all about perceived risk. On Vanderbilt, with a painted bike lane the space between physical obstacles (center median – parked car) is about 16 feet. On the sections without center medians, this often expands to about 27 feet (parked car – oncoming car). To put things into perspective, expressway lanes are typically 12 feet wide.

    Obviously, if the bike lane were constantly full of cyclists, that would greatly decrease the perceived width, but we’re not there yet. Drivers like this deter many people from hopping on a bike, as there is nothing protecting you from this type of sociopath. Yes, Vanderbilt is way better than it was before, but we can do a lot better in the future, and speed cameras can be a big part of the solution is taming reckless drivers.

  • highvizguy

    I’d say this bill should be followed up w/ a bill that allows people to send in video evidence of illegal driving to a central unit that can then cite drivers for their behavior…along the lines of Roadsafe London http://www.met.police.uk/roadsafelondon/

  • Anonymous

    I bike Vanderbilt regularly and let me tell you it can become a very very different street at night. During the day it’s mostly fine but sometimes at night and at rushhour you see shit like this.

  • Anonymous

    While I’d fullheartedly support a bill like that I don’t think it would do any good. I couldn’t make out the make or model although I do think it possibly is a Honda Pilot.

  • Ian Turner
  • I’ve just been reading FAA testimony on the 787 grounding – http://transportation.house.gov/sites/republicans.transportation.house.gov/files/documents/2013-06-12-Gilligan.pdf I was struck that it said, “The FAA focuses its efforts on those areas that have the highest risk.” Imagine the NYPD did that. Goodbye late-night ticketing of cyclists on the Hudson Greenway, hello nabbing people who drive at 60mph on urban streets (like Vanderbilt Avenue, which I frankly still find fairly scary as a place to cycle, however much it’s improved).

    I argued recently that a lot of the NYPD’s traffic “enforcement” seemed to be geared toward meeting quotas for stops and tickets, rather than dealing with the real risk factors: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/06/citibikes-drivers-and-science-of-moral.html I would love to see officers given new targets focused on the numbers of deaths and serious injuries in their precincts. I would wager that we’d hear no more of stunts like following a cyclist through three red lights to give him three tickets. The police would suddenly become a lot more vocal about speed cameras.

    It’s not impossible to solve any of this. London is about the same size as New York City and has plenty of car traffic on busy urban streets. When I lived in London, I had plenty of concerns about its traffic safety (and police attitudes: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/06/cops-pedallers-and-why-theyre-picking.html). But London has speed cameras and police that prosecute far more after road crashes than happens in New York. Around 100 people fewer die on its streets every year than is the case in New York.

  • Speed cams…. it wont work at all.

  • Ian Turner

    Would you like to elaborate?

  • Serious academic study in the UK (which has a far better road safety record than the US) said speed cameras there saved scores of lives annually. Why wouldn’t they work in NYC?

  • You really think NYPD will go after speeders by looking at the cameras. Good luck people.

  • Daniel Winks

    And if enough people do this, enough to hit 85%, they’ll just raise the speed limit and keep raising it until no more than 15% speed, even if that means making this a 50 MPH zone…

  • adam aston

    ben, what bike mounted camera set up do you use?

  • It’s a ContourRoam2 mounted to a strap around the head tube.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Aren’t speed cams automatic?

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