Mothers Who Lost Kids Call on Albany to Allow Speed Cams at Every School

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at city hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, six mothers who lost their children to traffic violence — Amy Cohen, Ellen Foote, Judy Kottick, Dana Lerner, Lizi Rahman, and Sofia Russo — spoke on the steps of City Hall, calling on Albany to expand automated speed enforcement in New York City.

Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives will go to the state capitol tomorrow to build support for Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s bill to expand the city’s speed camera program.

Current state law limits NYC’s speed cameras to 140 locations. The cameras must be placed within a quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts it. Moreover, enforcement is limited to school hours, providing no deterrent during the night, when fatal crashes are more likely.

Glick’s bill would address those flaws by removing the limit on the number of schools where cameras can be sited, allowing them to operate 24/7, and making the program permanent. (It is currently set to expire in 2018.)

“We have an epidemic of drivers that are not slowing down, and children are being killed,” said Lerner, whose 9-year-old son Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a cab driver who violated his right-of-way in a crosswalk at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

Image: Transportation Alternatives
Image: Transportation Alternatives

Since Albany first gave the city permission to use speed cameras in 2013, speeding has fallen by 60 percent at the locations where cameras have been installed, according to DOT. But only seven percent of city schools currently have them.

“Vehicular speeding is killing more New Yorkers than texting and drunk driving combined,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. “Vision Zero is of course many things, but we know that the camera enforcement program is one of the most effective [tools].”

In addition to Glick’s legislation, State Senator Jose Peralta has two similar bills, one that would allow cameras at every school and another that would allow the cameras to run at all hours. Transportation Alternatives Legislative Director Marco Conner said Glick’s bill would accomplish both of those goals and also ensure the program remains in place indefinitely.

White told reporters that a key focus of tomorrow’s advocacy efforts will be to win over the support of State Senator Jeff Klein, the powerful chair of the Independent Democratic Conference who played an instrumental role in passing previous speed camera legislation.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who is introducing a resolution in the City Council in support of Gick’s bill, said he has no sympathy for the constituents who call his office upset over a speed camera fine.

“I have had constituents complain to me that they got tickets because they were speeding outside of a school,” he said. “They should get tickets if they’re speeding anywhere in the city of New York, but particularly in front [of] or near a school.”

  • Andrew

    School kids also have to walk places that aren’t directly near schools.

    And of course the rest of is who aren’t school kids also deserve protection.

    Still too restrictive.

  • Vooch

    The best solution is the Columbia College solution at 116th and the Baruch College solution at 21st

    everyone should go visit Baruch College to see how a street can be opened to people for safety

    116th Used to be a motor street with driving death machines until the 1940s ( see photo ) today it’s Utterly inconcievable that death machines used to dominate the active people space that 116th is today.

    We should have the same attitude towards every school. No motor traffic in front of any school whenever school is in session

  • kevd

    “Baruch College solution at 21st”
    Well, aside from the “cyclists must dismount” bullshit.

  • Andrew

    That’s never going to be adopted for every street. Camera enforcement can be adopted on every street, and it would also shut up all the whiners who complain about speed traps.

  • Vooch

    opening up the street in front of schools to people during school days can apply to 80% of schools in NYC. The camera approach is ultimately a negative solution which really doesn’t protect the children much.

    opening up the street in fron of a school is a posituve solution and insured 100% no car will hit a child. plus the street becomes a safe space for children to play, socialize, and gather.

    don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • Vooch

    I thought the sign read ‘cyclists should go super slow, and if it gets really super crowded, dismount’

  • Joe R.

    Best solution is to just ban nonessential motor vehicles from NYC. So long as we have large numbers of motor vehicles in NYC, it’ll foster the road rage which results in carnage. We’ll never reach the goal of Vision Zero unless we radically reduce the number of motor vehicles in NYC. Using speed cameras, a gazillion traffic signals, and so forth is just putting a bandaid on the larger problem of too many motor vehicles.

    Drivers in general have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re incapable of safely operating motor vehicles in urban areas. Time to just revoke that privilege.

  • AnoNYC

    Does this include all schools? Including private schools and colleges?

  • ahwr

    What’s wrong with walking your bike for a block?

  • Andrew

    Sounds great if the only place you ever walk is in front of a school. Everybody I know – even people traveling to and from schools – also walks elsewhere. They deserve the protection of the law as well.

  • Vooch

    then make the streets ‘around’ schools 20 MPH zones with the entire panoply of roadway infrastructure to insure 20MPH is adhered to.

    1) narrowed motor lanes
    2) Ped bump outs
    3) Soeed slowing rosd textures
    4) speed bumps
    5) signal timing
    6) protected bike lanes
    7) extensive no parking zones
    8) Expansed sidewalks
    9) Pedestrian Plazas

    etc
    etc

  • Joe R.

    Because it’s stupid and doesn’t serve any real safety purpose. Arguably, walking a bike makes things worse since you’re twice as wide and can more easily clip people with the pedals.

  • Joe R.

    They put all that on a sign? You kind of need to be going super slow to even read that much on a sign. A simple sign with a big “S” at the start of the slow zone, and “R” where it ends, would convey the same message.

    That said, if you ban cars from a street it makes sense to just widen the sidewalks, leave about 12 feet of the street for bikes, and let bikes go at normal bike speeds (which are almost always 20 mph or less).

  • ahwr

    Do we tell motor vehicle operators to get out of their vehicle and push it

    This is a street where the city put up bollards to close the street to motor vehicles and created a pedestrian plaza. If you want parity would that mean banning bicycles?

    In case you aren’t familiar with it.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7403654,-73.9828027,3a,75y,285.97h,76.06t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sWAGwc8GTOBJyp85sINCvfg!2e0!5s20141201T000000!7i13312!8i6656

    http://i.imgur.com/hXbjU5y.jpg

  • Joe R.

    Actually, if it’s a pedestrian plaza I might favor just banning bikes altogether, depending upon the average level of pedestrians. Or just ban them during peak times. I’ll admit when I’m walking in a crowded pedestrian space like Times Square I don’t enjoy large numbers of bikes being either ridden or walked. However, it’s no big deal with the level of pedestrian traffic in that picture.

    That said, bike traffic in pedestrian plazas tends to be self-regulating anyway. If there are so many people such that you can’t ride at a reasonable speed most cyclists will choose a different route. I know I would unless my destination happened to be right on the plaza. In that case I would just ride as slowly as I needed to for safety, and certainly under about 10 mph.

  • kevd

    Lots. Its really shitty if you’re trying to ride somewhere. Because while riding is easier and faster than walking, walking a bike is harder and slower.

  • kevd

    head smack…

  • Andrew

    You keep going back to streets around schools. I want driving laws to be enforced on every street in the city, everywhere, consistently and fairly and predictably, so that every driver knows that the choice to break the law comes with a penalty.

  • Joe R.

    You do realize the practical end result of that would probably be a ban on speed and red light cameras? Drivers unfortunately still carry a lot of clout in this city disproportionate to their numbers. I suspect that’s one reason the NYPD is so lax enforcing traffic laws. If we try automated enforcement, you’ll get hordes of drivers screaming to their representatives once they rack up a few tickets. Their representatives will either ask to get rid of the speed cameras, or raise the speed limit (and camera trip point) to a high enough level so most drivers won’t get tickets.

    Ban unnecessary motor vehicles and/or redesign streets. Those are the only solutions likely to work. And yes, I’ll grant that the first one is probably a harder sell than the speed cameras but something I still think could get done if the non-driving majority pushed for it.

  • Joe R.

    My bad. It was sarcasm on the part of Vooch. I wasn’t familiar with the street in question. Now that ahwr posted a picture I can clearly see the obnoxious “PLEASE WALK BICYCLE” signs.

  • Andrew

    I don’t think most drivers have a problem with law enforcement – you’re giving a very vocal minority a lot of power.

    I do think that most drivers have a serious problem with being told that they may not drive in the city at all unless Joe R. seems them essential. (Certainly, anybody who believes they should be free to speed also believes they should be free to drive.)

    Perhaps my proposal is unlikely to pass, but yours is beyond the realm of possibility.

  • Joe R.

    Putting aside the relative likelihood of passage of our respective proposals, yours is at best a partial solution while mine is a more complete solution. If you’ve ever studied safety, you’ll realize the difference between inherently safe versus inherently unsafe. When safety depends upon fallible humans following procedures, you have an inherently unsafe situation. That’s especially true if they’re operating heavy machinery in close proximity to unprotected humans. You want to replace this with an inherently safe system which either overrides unsafe human inputs, or has physical separation to eliminate the consequences of a mistake.

    Right now I see only three possibilities for an inherently safe system in NYC:

    1) Reduce the number of motor vehicles to the bare minimum, and eventually have automatic operation. Even that still isn’t 100% inherently safe but it’s way better than what we have.

    2) Completely grade separate motor vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists. Besides being impractical at this time, drivers would never be willing to pay the cost of this.

    3) Bollard off sidewalks and have retractable bollards come up whenever a pedestrian enters a crosswalk. This offers physical protection from driver error. It still does nothing to protect cyclists but at least it protects pedestrians.

    A distant fourth possibility is 100% driverless cars but I see a lot of resistance from drivers to getting self-drive made mandatory.

    #2 is what I would do as an alternative to banning nonessential driving. I think given the disruption of putting everything on separate levels banning nonessential driving is more viable. I never said it would be politically possible in the short term, but in a decade perhaps.

  • Miles Bader

    They should do both—speed cameras on every street, and ban cars entirely on especially problematic streets such as those in front of schools or where children or pedestrians otherwise congregate.

  • Vooch

    what wrong with pushing your car for a block ?

  • Vooch

    the other language is in really tiny letters on the sign – hinest

  • Vooch

    infrastructure always trumps enforcement

    infrastructure a

  • ahwr

    Cars are too bulky for that to accomplish anything, so they’re banned from the block. Walking a bike won’t be overly disruptive. Riding one can be.

    Again, why is it so hard to get off your bike and walk for a block? Given the push back from you, Joe, and kevd on the idea we should go with your idea and use infrastructure to block bike through traffic.

  • Vooch

    drivers kill or injure 50,000 New Yorkers every year

    bikes – nil

    ergo –
    drivers are dangerous
    bikes are safe

    that’s why

  • ahwr

    That doesn’t answer the question, “why is it so hard to get off your bike and walk for a block?”

    Then again your replies rarely do.

  • Vooch

    because cycling is regular transportation used for necessary and important mobility

    and it’s already achieved vision zero

  • SDGreg

    Go to congestion pricing as was done in central London. It did wonders for reducing the number of vehicles and improving the walking environment.

  • reasonableexplanation

    That TA image seems tautological… over 50% of fatal crashes occur in a period of time that represents 54% of the day. That’s expected, I guess? (especially considering that nighttime is when drunk driving happens)

  • reasonableexplanation

    Banning bikes during peak times makes sense. The best thing would just to have a protected bike lane on an adjacent street. Solves the traspo issue while leaving a pedestrian plaza pedestrianized.

    When you think about why bikes are banned in certain places, imagine how you would feel if a motorcycle was allowed to go through there. If it doesn’t really fit, maybe bikes don’t either.

    Would a motorcycle using this plaza as a thru street (even at 10mph) be desirable? probably not.

  • qrt145

    I don’t think the purpose of that image is to convey a surprising finding, but just to point out that our fine legislators are not even trying to deal with half of the problem.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Well, the law was passed to protect kids going to and from school. It works for that. The fact that we’d like it to protect everyone all the time doesn’t mean the law isn’t working exactly as intended here.

  • qrt145

    Nobody is saying the law isn’t working as intended. The problem indeed is that this law is, by intent, extremely weak.

  • c2check

    I wonder what the picture would look like if you compare % of crashes during that time to number of cars on the road during that time (or VMT or such)

  • c2check

    But schools have events and programs after 6PM, too, no?

  • c2check

    As a first step we can pass the MoveNY plan!
    Write your reps: http://iheartmoveny.org/

  • reasonableexplanation

    Probably unfavorably, but, given that drunk driving is responsible for 30% of all road fatalities, and that drunks are almost exclusively out at night… yeeah.

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