Council Passes Hit-and-Run Bill; Greenfield Tables Speed Limit Legislation

The City Council yesterday passed legislation requiring NYPD to post regular reports on the most serious hit-and-run crashes, while a bill to lower speed limits on certain streets has been set aside until next year.

The hit-and-run bill would mandate that NYPD report in writing quarterly on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. NYPD would further be required to provide the council with crash locations, and “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate” each incident. Crash data are to be disaggregated by precinct and posted online.

Critical injury status would be determined by emergency responders. FDNY EMS guidelines define a critically injured person as “a patient either receiving CPR, in respiratory arrest, or requiring and receiving life sustaining ventilator/circulatory support.”

If signed by Mayor Bloomberg, the bill would take effect in July 2015. The hit-and-run bill was authored by Council Members Leroy Comrie, Peter Koo, and Rosie Mendez.

“The sad and unfortunate case of Dante Dominguez — who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver last fall — along with the tragic deaths of many New Yorkers brings us together for today’s vote,” said Mendez, in a written statement. “This action is the very least that can be done to make sure that Dante’s untimely passing was not in vain and will, in fact, be the first step toward systemic change and additional measures led by the NYPD.”

“Furthermore,” said Mendez, “I hope the State Senate will adopt legislation to strengthen the investigative measures taken by the NYPD within the vicinity of any hit and run accident that results in a fatality or severe injury.”

Dante Dominguez was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Flushing in November 2012. Patrick Dominguez, the victim’s brother, told council members earlier this month that the NYPD investigation did not begin until a week after the crash. The driver was not caught.

NYPD currently investigates a tiny fraction of total pedestrian and cyclist injuries. According to Transportation Alternatives, of some 300 investigations conducted by the Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers. Just 15 of those investigations resulted in arrest.

In other council news, a bill that would lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour on narrow one-way streets has been shelved. Sponsor David Greenfield issued the following statement Thursday:

Due to strong opposition to this life-saving legislation within the Bloomberg administration, I believe it will be more beneficial to reintroduce my legislation next year. There is no question that speeding drivers are one of the biggest threats to pedestrian safety in New York City. I am committed to reintroducing a bill in the next Council that will do what we have always set out to do — save as many lives as possible by lowering the speed limit in a responsible manner.

Greenfield’s original bill would have set speed limits no higher than 20 mph ”on all streets fewer than sixty feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.” But DOT told the council in October that state law permits the city to set speeds at 15 to 24 miles per hour only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, or if a street is within a quarter-mile of a school. Greenfield told the Times in November that the revised bill would set speed limits at 25 mph on one-way streets with one lane of traffic.

Streetsblog asked Greenfield’s office why the revised bill did not aim to lower speeds to 25 mph citywide, but multiple calls and emails yielded no answer.

Bloomberg spokesperson Marc Lavorgna told WNYC Thursday that the mayor would support a 25 mph citywide speed limit, and said Greenfield’s bill is, in WNYC’s words, “too complicated.”

Addendum: Council Member Greenfield’s office took issue with our statement that multiple calls and emails regarding the revised speed limit bill, including a question pertaining to a citywide 25 mph speed limit, “yielded no answer.” To clarify: On November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, Streetsblog called Greenfield to ask about revisions to the speed limit bill. We were told the council member would call us back the same day. He did not. Two weeks later, on December 11, we called again, and it was agreed that Streetsblog would submit questions to the council member in writing. As of yesterday we had received no answers to our questions. We emailed Greenfield’s office again concerning the timetable for the revised bill, and shortly thereafter received the statement that appears in this story. Greenfield’s office told us today that, because of this story and a tweet we posted with a link to it, the council member may choose not to answer our questions on the speed limit bill at all.

  • Stephen Bauman

    Greenfield’s speed bill would have negligible impact on pedestrian/cyclist deaths/injuries for two reasons: 1 – the vast majority of such crashes don’t occur on one lane one-way or residential streets – they occur on multi-lane streets designed for high speed and 2 – it would require the NYPD to make it effective.

    There is a better way to reduce auto speed down to 20 mph where the accidents happen. You design the traffic lights to reduce car speeds to 20 mph. There are no state laws that tell NYC how to manage its traffic lights. This could be implemented overnight, without the City having to prostate itself before the high priests in Albany.

    This is a practically a no cost solution for one-way streets that have progressively timed signals like Manhattan’s avenues. The current timing is supposedly set for 30 mph or a 6 second delay between blocks. The current 6 second delay becomes 9 seconds and the effective speed has been reduced to 20 mph.

    There is some cost for two-way speedways like Queens Blvd, Atlantic Ave, Ocean Pkwy and Eastern Pkwy. There are sensors that detect car speed. Instead of snapping a picture of a speeder, they could set the next light red. There could even be a sign that lights up stating that the red light was set because some motorists were exceeding the 20 mph speed limit.

    This approach would demolish the speeders’ rationalization that existing speed limits are set artificially low to make money from the fines.

  • Kevin Love

    Or, better yet, we could adopt the Dutch approach to eliminate rat-running by ensuring that residential streets are through routes only for walking, cycling and public transit. Not cut-through routes for car drivers. And no permission from Albany required.

    Here is how children in 1972 fought for safe streets:

  • Stephen Bauman

    The basic problem with what you describe is that one cannot create a parallel universe. Walkers and cyclists must cross non-residential streets. Most collisions occur when trying to cross them. Reducing the speed on these non-residential streets will provide the largest reduction in both the number of collisions and the severity of those that occur.

    The question is how to achieve this speed reduction.

  • jooltman

    Greenfield’s staff should know that when they refuse comment and then punish Streetsblog for journalistic persistence, they are saying “Talk to the Hand” to thousands of committed advocates. That is no way to work together to improve NYC street safety.

  • Joe R.

    Sorry but traffic signals are the biggest cause of speeding in NYC. Compare the amount of aggressive, downright dangerous driving here to virtually anyplace else while at the same time comparing the infrastructure. NYC has ten times more traffic signals per square mile than Chicago. The problem here is that gross overuse of both traffic signals and stop signs has resulted in drivers doing their level best to mitigate their effects. And your proposal just makes things worse by continuing to use traffic signals as “traffic calming devices” when that’s not among their functions.

    How about instead we take measures to ensure that traffic flows more slowly, but also more steadily? The 20 mph zones implemented in most other places specifically eliminate traffic signals because they’re not needed at such low speeds. The carrot here for motorists is much more predictable trip times because there is no random stopping at traffic lights. Predictable trip times are actually more desirable than faster, but unreliable, trip times.

    My suggestions then are lane narrowing, perhaps chicanes, uncontrolled intersections, and speed cameras in some key spots. In some cases where large numbers of pedestrians cross busy non-residential streets we should seriously consider either grade separation, or taking measures to drastically reduce traffic volumes so enough natural gaps in traffic exist to safely cross. What we should expressly not be doing is what community boards often suggest-namely using traffic signals or stop signs as traffic calming devices. The purpose of these traffic controls is to prevent collisions at intersections with poor lines of sight which can’t be left uncontrolled, or in some cases to manage traffic flow where both cross roads have high levels of traffic. As such, there are very limited uses for either device, especially traffic signals.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe it’s just me but I would seriously like to see a lot more pedestrian/cyclist overpasses/underpasses at very busy streets like Queens Boulevard or Northern Boulevard, to name a few of the major clusterf*cks which are difficult to cross even under the best circumstances. Major thoroughfares in NYC are typically spaced at least 10 blocks apart, if not more, so it’s not a terrible inconvenience to have to go up or down twice per mile in return for being able to cross busy streets in perfect safety, without waiting for a walk signal.

  • Kevin Love

    Yes, you are absolutely correct in saying that intersections are the most dangerous place in a street network. Fortunately, there are standard designs to remove this danger. See, for example, this comparison of the NACTO and CROW designs:

    And real life examples in action at:

  • bronislav_malinowski

    Ha, Greenfield you are a total loser, taking a note from the Ray Kelly “throw your toys out the crib” playbook.

    Streetsblog, thanks for your commitment to this. I know a couple CC meetings that are going to be hearing from me…


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