Michael DenDekker: Slowing NYC Drivers Is a Pointless Waste

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker, the Queens rep who once proposed legislation to register cyclists and monitor them with bike lane cameras, says efforts to slow city drivers under Vision Zero are pointless. DenDekker wants an audit of Vision Zero spending, which he reportedly believes is wasted unless it’s going toward traffic signals to eliminate motorist-pedestrian conflicts at intersections.

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker
Assembly Member Michael DenDekker

DenDekker’s remarks were reported by Katie Honan at DNAinfo. DenDekker wasn’t available to talk with us today, but in the DNAinfo story he dismissed the effectiveness of speed cameras, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes to calm traffic. What the city should do, he said, is concentrate on converting intersections to Barnes Dance-style crossings, with pedestrians and motorists crossing at separate times.

“How much are you spending now on bike lanes and other traffic calming effects like putting medians in and doing slow zones and all the other stuff you are spending money on?” he said.

“All of the stuff that Vision Zero has done would not have done anything to save the two children that got killed on Northern Boulevard.”

DenDekker, who represents parts of Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, was referring to Miguel Torres and Noshat Nahian, two children killed on Northern Boulevard by drivers who failed to yield. The official Vision Zero unveiling and Mayor de Blasio’s subsequent traffic safety bill signing event both took place at PS 152, in DenDekker’s district, where Noshat was a student.

It is true that drivers who fail to yield while turning pose a great risk to New York City pedestrians. But eliminating traffic deaths isn’t a matter of choosing one solution or another. DenDekker either doesn’t realize or refuses to acknowledge that Vision Zero is a comprehensive program, encompassing improvements to engineering as well as enforcement and education.

Speeding is the leading cause of death in New York City traffic crashes, so it’s ludicrous for DenDekker to declare that there is no use for automated enforcement and other infrastructure to slow motor vehicle traffic. Speeding drivers pose a significant risk to everyone on the street, including other motorists.

Protected bike lanes have shown to reduce crashes and injuries for all street users. And of course, many pedestrians are struck by drivers who are not turning. Drivers killed at least two people on Northern Boulevard in 2014 alone in crashes that did not involve a turn, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

The fact is the physical traffic-calming elements that serve as the underpinning to Vision Zero are proven to improve safety for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives in NYC. DenDekker’s dismissal of Vision Zero’s multi-faceted approach to safety simply isn’t supported by fact.

  • BBnet3000

    So Dendekker’s point is that we’re creating a more pleasant city for nothing?

  • dporpentine

    I’m glad he’s made it clear that he doesn’t care at all about people who bike. That’s nice and categorical.

  • Emmily_Litella

    “Out of my way, I’m a motorist!” – Monty Burns

  • Jeff
  • Mark Walker

    His demand for a Vision Zero audit when the program has barely begun is needlessly punitive and probably disingenuous. Oh, and the dreaded word “spending,” used over and over. Yeah, street safety improvements require “spending,” whereas endless acres of asphalt for cars come from the asphalt fairy.

  • JK

    Be helpful for Streetsblog to ID this guy’s district per “represents parts of Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, Queens.”

  • Brad Aaron

    Good idea. Thanks.

  • Bolwerk

    Doesn’t matter how many non-drivers a neighborhood has. The only backlash buffoons like this fear is from drivers.

  • ocschwar

    I have a freshman physics textbook I’ll happily send to his office.

  • Hilda

    Based on the photo of the Northern Blvd intersection where Noshat Nahian was killed by a truck driver that did not yield, a pedestrian island may well have made a difference.
    Change for the better is often difficult, time consuming, and inconvenient. These, to some, are high costs to pay. But the cost is never too great if it can save someone’s life.
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/12/20/unlicensed-truck-driver-kills-noshat-nahian-8-in-northern-blvd-crosswalk/

  • Kevin Love

    Although most of his remarks fully deserve the scorn being poured on them, Mr DenDekker is right about simultaneous greens at intersections. For details, see:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/05/the-best-traffic-light-solution-for.html

  • Cold Shoaler

    Why isn’t Mr. Osorio-Palaminos behind bars? If he did this with an unlicensed gun what would his sentence be?

  • Helen Nguyen

    This guy is SO OUT OF TOUCH.

  • Helen Nguyen

    haha.

  • Andres Dee

    Is he really for simultaneous greens, or is this just a leading walk (which I’ve seen in places lasting literally one second)? If simultaneous greens, how long an interval? I find it odd (and enraging) that green signal intervals for motorists are usually set to accommodate cars as long as they’re coming through, while walks are usually only for the people actually at the corner when the light turns.

  • jackson

    But he’s right – – -people don’t follow the rules

  • Andrew

    Because.

    Even aside from the licensing issues, people – and police – view cars and guns very very differently.

    If the police catch me holding a (licensed) gun to your head in order to persuade you to voluntarily hand me the contents of your wallet, they’d throw me in jail. But if the police catch me accelerating a car toward you in order to persuade you to voluntarily give up your legal right-of-way, they don’t bat an eyelash.

    If you fail to hand over the contents of your wallet and I respond by shooting your brains out, would anyone claim that you were at fault or that it was just an unfortunate accident?

  • dporpentine

    For which the drivers should pay. And heavily.

    We need to start arresting them by the thousands.

  • Helen Nguyen

    EXACTLY. The car drivers are at fault, not the pedestrians nor bike riders.

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