Redress for Right of Way

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Redress for Right of Way

They want it this way.

City Councilmembers have introduced a new legislative package intended to address lingering concerns about the “Right of Way” law the Council introduced last year. Led by Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, the package is also designed to improve intersection visibility and reduce the chance of crashes at the city’s most dangerous corners.

The legislation seeks to address concerns about the "Right of Way" law.

The legislation seeks to address concerns about the “Right of Way” law.

According to Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics, 74 percent of pedestrian deaths and 89 percent of cyclist deaths occur at intersections. And failing to yield to an individual’s right of way is the cause of 27 percent of serious pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths, statistics indicate.

“Improving intersections and the way drivers, pedestrians and cyclists interact with them is an ongoing process in our city, but common sense legislation will go far in preventing the tragic deaths and crashes that occur far too often,” Rodríguez said in a statement.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez.

He explained that the package of bills, introduced on September 17, marks a legislative solution to concerns raised by New York City bus drivers, including worries about the high number of dangerous left turns along bus routes, as well as poor vision in buses due to blind spots and pedestrians walking out from behind parked cars.

“Earlier this year, bus drivers brought real concerns to the table when it came to the Right of Way law and today we seek to address them with solutions everyone can get behind,” said Rodríguez.

Introduced in May 2014, the Right of Way law mandated that drivers who injure or kill pedestrians crossing with the light in their favor be charged with a misdemeanor.

Six MTA bus drivers were arrested under the law, which came under fire from Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, who charged that on-the-spot arrests of bus operators unfairly criminalized them. This prompted the union to file a federal lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio in April.

Six MTA bus drivers were arrested under the law.

Six MTA bus drivers were arrested under the law.

Under a settlement that TWU Local 100 reached with the de Blasio administration on August 31, MTA drivers will not be strictly liable for injuring or killing pedestrians in a crosswalk — investigators will have to determine that a driver failed to act with “care which is exercised by reasonably prudent drivers.”

As part of the new legislative package, the INT 911 bill will require the DOT to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and cyclists along bus routes and install traffic calming measures at high-risk intersections. These measures could include left-arrow signals, restrictions on left turns, curb extensions, lane narrowing and new pedestrian signals.

Another bill in the package, INT 912, will require the DOT to implement daylighting — the practice of removing parked cars from spots closest to intersections — at the top five most dangerous intersections in each borough, as determined annually by the Vision Zero Report.

The 2015 Vision Zero report of the city’s most dangerous corners included one Northern Manhattan intersection: West 125th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

Additionally, Rodríguez will introduce RES 854, a resolution that calls upon the MTA to study mechanisms to reduce blind spots on buses, and to install already-developed technology that audibly alerts drivers of a person in their blind spot.

TWU President John Samuelsen.

TWU President John Samuelsen.

Advocates for pedestrian and cyclist safety praised the proposed legislation.

“These are common sense measures that will reduce collisions between those driving and those walking and biking,” stated Veronica Vanterpool, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“Sensor technology to improve blind spots on buses, along with more dedicated left-turn signals, will help professional drivers navigate New York City’s pedestrian-rich environment more safely,” said Caroline Samponaro, Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives. “We thank Council Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodríguez for introducing these bills to make intersections safer, and for his commitment to Vision Zero.”

–Gregg McQueen