Surviving a Walk in NYC Should Not Depend on Luck

As far as Bill de Blasio's NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2
As far as Bill de Blasio’s NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it doesn’t know anything about a cabbie who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, hit a pedestrian, and crashed into a building earlier this week. Other than to deflect blame from the driver, NYPD has refused to release information about the crash.

It happened Monday morning. From the Post:

“He [the pedestrian] was literally flying. He fell right here in front of this window,” said Elsa Gomez, 28, who works in Macaron Cafe on East 59th Street near Madison Avenue.

The cab careened onto the sidewalk at around 11:50 a.m. and continued into the front of an eyeglass store, shattering its window.

“It was a huge, scary noise,” said James Escobar, 50, owner of Page and Smith Opticians.

“We were working inside … and we heard a big, huge boom,” Escobar told CBS 2. “I couldn’t even open the door.”

The pedestrian was hospitalized with a leg injury, reports said. “We were lucky,” said Escobar.

NYPD declined to release information about the cab driver or the victim to the press, other than the normal exculpatory statements about the driver. Police told CBS 2 “the cabbie somehow lost control of his vehicle,” and the Post reported that “his license was valid and there were no signs of criminality.”

When I called the department’s public information office, I was told to send an email request. This is NYPD’s polite way of saying “Go away.” I have emailed NYPD many times in seven-plus years at Streetsblog, and have never received a response. We’ll update if we hear back.

I also emailed TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg to ask if the driver’s hack license was suspended. Fromberg replied that he had “nothing” on the crash. I emailed back to ask how the TLC could have no information about a crash involving a TLC-licensed driver. Fromberg didn’t answer.

Unless the pedestrian was critically injured, this crash would not trigger Cooper’s Law, which — depending on whether NYPD files charges — allows the TLC to take action against the hack license of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death while breaking traffic laws. But waiting until a reckless driver kills or disfigures someone to get him off the streets is antithetical to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Everything about this crash, from the incident itself to “no criminality suspected” and the information blackout, harkens to the Ray Kelly era. Under Vision Zero, the safety of New Yorkers on city streets should no longer depend on luck.

About 48 hours after the Monday crash, a man drove a box truck through a bagel shop in Forest Hills, injuring as many as six people, including an infant. Hours later NYPD said no criminality was suspected.

“When the truck finally came to rest, half of it was inside of the busy store,” reported the Daily News, “and it was a wonder that no one was killed.”

  • WalkingNPR

    If the pedestrian is not in the crosswalk, it’s his fault when he gets hit. If the pedestrian is on the sidewalk, it’s also his fault if he gets hit. Vision Zero!

  • J

    Bratton’s #visionzero strategy: “keep up the good work!”

  • PhilCatelinet

    “No criminality was suspected” should be the new NYPD slogan. I see it often enough.

  • walknseason

    Uh, I have news for you: from the extension of broken windows to the defense of spying on Muslim communities, to the blue wall of silent thuggery, *everything* about BdB harkens to the Ray Kelly era. The man is a total scam.

  • r

    I actually don’t think the mayor has any clue what Vision Zero means. The advocates do. Streetsblog does. A few people at DOT do. But that’s about it.

  • Vernon6

    The lousy thing about paramilitary forces is that they are really unresponsive to e-mail.

  • Alex

    I mean, if you wander into a bear’s den and you get eaten, it’s your fault for being there. You know, because cars and wild predators are exactly the same thing.

  • I cannot believe that this is allowed to go on in your city. When you guys have a freak out about a mosque going in, but don’t care about dozens of people killed every month, there’s something massively wrong with the priorities.

  • Brad Aaron

    My beat is traffic violence, but I appreciate the wisdom.

  • Joe R.

    Don’t forget also if the pedestrian isn’t wearing reflective clothing at night and carrying around a flashlight then it’s their fault too if they get hit. The NYPD gave us that bit of “wisdom” last year:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/11/13/nypd-pedestrian-safety-tips-use-a-flashlight-if-you-walk-at-night/

    http://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/not-only-should-pedestrians-wear-reflective-clothing-nypd-tells-them-carry-flashlights-night.html

  • com63

    Does Section 19-190 apply here or do pedestrians not have the right of way on the sidewalk?

  • Luke Skywalker

    If the cabbie even grazed a cop, he’d be beaten to an inch of his life and slapped with multiple felony charges.

  • Alex

    To be fair, those freaking out about the mosque were mostly not NYC residents. But the lack of concern over this is very disturbing.

  • New Yorker

    Oh, but Commissioner Bratton’s got the NYPD active on Twitter talking about #VisionZero nearly every day now. So, big progress!

  • Mat50

    driver “losing control” of a motor vehicle, without mechanical failure or other obvious cause, should be automatically criminal negligence. Period.

  • Joe R.

    At the very least any instance of “losing control” resulting in death or serious injury should result in automatic permanent license revocation as it demonstrates either willful negligence or gross incompetence. I’ll grant there are some instances where even the best drivers will lose control, like over black ice. However, even then if they’re driving at a reasonable speed for the conditions the consequences of losing control won’t be catastrophic.

  • Kevin Love

    Like attempted murder charges if a driver gave a cop such minor injuries that he was promptly released from hospital? See:

    http://nypost.com/2012/08/22/driver-held-in-cop-hit/

  • neroden

    The folks trying to prevent traffic violence, and the folks trying to stop cops from parking on the sidewalk and in bus lanes, need to hook up with the folks protesting against police abuse of colored people, Schoolcraft’s attempt to report the illegal quota system, everything. The NYPD is basically a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, and it has to be approached that way; all the different people being abused by it need to start cooperating.

    I suggest, once you’ve got a large enough network, asking Judge Thomas Raffaele (who was personally assaulted by a cop) to convene a grand jury to investigate the systemic NYPD conspiracy to commit crimes themselves and let people get away with other “preferred” crimes like vehicular homicide. I don’t know how else to start, it’s bad enough it needs a grand jury. The new Brooklyn DA *might* be helpful. The Manhattan DA, Vance, is clearly part of the criminal cop conspiracy.

  • walknseason

    Yes, I agree there is a HUGE disjuncture between the safe streets “movement” and other social justice movements/coalitions in this city which revolve around more traditional brutality like cop violence, affordable housing, etc. Its a big problem for the [safe streets] movement for sure, something I’ve been hammering a lot.

    Safe streets people would be well advised to start coaching advocate language in terms of collective good vs individual good, rather than just whining (like i did in the past!) about how they want more bike lanes. It has to be about public good. It has to be about how bikers are individually targeted for what cops saw in other bikers (eg: prejudice & bigotry). and so on.

  • chekpeds

    Many cabs are driven by cops undercover. I would not be surprised if that was the case here with NYPD keeping the identities secret.

  • chekpeds

    Is it time to pass a bill that explicitly makes it a crime to injure or kill someone on the sidewalk?

  • Kevin Love

    Somehow I have never “lost control” of my bicycle. That naughty bike never goes places all on its own.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Or, at the very least, grounds for revocation of the driver’s license!

  • Bobberooni

    What if the person had a medical episode and blacked out? It’s happened.

  • Brad Aaron

    Based on prior crashes if that were the case NYPD and the media would have disclosed it immediately. Any details that point to driver blamelessness are normally front and center.

  • qrt145

    That wouldn’t be negligence unless the driver was known to have a medical condition likely to cause such episodes. But even in those cases, the driver’s license should be suspended until it’s proven that the “episodes” are not likely to recur.

  • Bobberooni

    I don’t doubt that in this crash. My point is that there shouldn’t be an automatic criminal charge any time someone loses control of a vehicle. Because sometimes they lose control for non-criminal reasons.

  • qrt145

    As always, blanket rules that say “always” are always wrong. 😉

  • Mat50

    a medical emergency is obviously a valid reason for losing control. But the drivers’ reasons/attempted excuses are often much more minor and not justified by any sensible person, just by the DA or the NYPD

  • sammy davis jr jr

    Well said. I would just add the word “proof”: Without proof of mechanical failure. The onus of proof should not be on the victim.

  • MatAlso50

    I don’t believe you. Think about it. You’re saying you never skidded, never braked funny and slid. Never brushed past a parked car, or shrub, or anything. It’s just not true. As a rule, humans are not perfect drivers of any type of vehicle. Everybody thinks they’re an above average driver. This is statistically impossible, and it applies to bicycles as well as cars.

  • MatAlso50

    That’s ridiculous. No matter what penalties you add, people will make errors driving. Every driver does. You get distracted, you turn a bit more sharply than you should, you press the accelerator a little harder than you should. Everybody does it. Luckily, most driver error passes without damage or injury. But unfortunately, it really is a matter of luck. Human beings are imperfect drivers. If you think the fact that you haven’t gotten into a serious accident means you’ve never made a driving error that could have resulted in a serious accident under other circumstances, you’re deluding yourself.

  • True, at least not all of them are NYC residents. It wasn’t an NYC freak out. That being said, neither are traffic deaths…they happen all over the country, at a rate of 2x Canada and Australia both of which are just as car dominated. And at a rate of 5x that of Europe, its insane.

  • Mat50

    If you drive a car, truck or a motorcycle or a bike, and you’ve had some close calls due to misjudgment, and you don’t learn from your own mistakes, can’t anticipate two seconds ahead of your position, then there needs to be consequences to protect the rest of us from people like you. Depending on luck is deluding yourself and a problem for others on the road.

  • Joe R.

    You’ve inadvertently made a good case why human beings shouldn’t drive motor vehicles at all, even if that wasn’t your original intent. If so many people really depend upon “luck”, not driving skills, to avoid collisions then we really need to rethink how we award driver’s licenses. At the very least I think the process should be as difficult as obtaining a pilot’s license, along with having the need to recertify annually. Yes, I know the practical result of that will be upwards of 75% of the population will never qualify for a driver’s license. I’m fine with that. Maybe if people who drove were the exception, not the rule, we might actually start designing more of our world with non-cars in mind.

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