StreetsPAC Urges City Council to Pass Daylighting, Pedestrian Right-of-Way Bills, Back Car-Free Earth Day

We gave the following testimony to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation at their April 4, 2016 hearing covering several pieces of legislation. 

Int. No. 912 – Requiring curb extensions at certain dangerous intersections (Support)

We offer our strong support for Intro 912, which would establish a curb-extensions program and require curb extensions at dangerous intersections.  The bottom line is that daylighting can save lives, by increasing visibility at corners for all street users, and curb extensions can be accomplished at low cost using temporary materials on an interim basis before being fully built out.

We do, however, believe the number of annual curb-extension projects called for in this legislation – a minimum of five per borough – is woefully inadequate, and would urge that the bill be amended to substantially raise the bar.  Ideally, curb extensions should be standard design at every intersection.

Regardless, though, we strongly support initiating a program for daylighting intersections, which we believe is critical to helping the city achieve Vision Zero.  Saving lives is well worth the cost of a few corner parking spaces.

Int. No. 997 – Pedestrian countdown signals (Support)

We also offer our strong support for Intro 997, which would correct a terrible flaw in the administrative code that robs pedestrians of their right of way in crosswalks when automated signals begin counting down seconds or flashing a red hand.

Far too many intersections around the city give pedestrians only a few seconds of walk signal before beginning a countdown that might last four or five times as long as the steady green.  A substantial number of these are at yawning expanses of asphalt, such as the exceedingly dangerous intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.  Under current law, it’s physically impossible for anyone to cross such intersections without ceding their legal right of way.

Clearly, it was not the intent of the law to make pedestrians legally culpable for their injuries – or worse, deaths – when crossing a street with the signal and in a crosswalk.  This bill would fix that flaw.

We would also point out that drivers’ failure to yield to pedestrians is a major problem in New York City, and the cause of dozens of death and thousands of injuries each year.  Let’s pass this legislation immediately, and save lives.

Res. No. 1013 – Make Earth Day 2016 a car-free day for private and all non-essential city vehicles (Support)

We strongly support Resolution 1013, which calls upon the City of New York to make Earth Day 2016 a car-free day for private and non-essential city vehicles.

While such a measure would be symbolic, it’s exactly the right type of symbolism.  New Yorkers have embraced the summer streets program, taking over miles of city streets on weekend days for active recreation, and making Earth Day car-free may similarly encourage our fellow citizens to leave the car at home in favor of a subway or bus ride to work, or to even try a bike commute for the first time.

It’s clear that New York City’s future does not lie with more automobile trips, and Chairman Rodriguez has articulated a laudable goal of significantly reducing private vehicle ownership.  We urge that April 22, 2016 be the first annual car-free Earth Day, and that for future Earth Days, we rapidly and substantially expand the miles of city streets that are made car-free.  We embrace this first step, and call upon the Committee and Council to pass Resolution 1013 unanimously.  Further, we hope that city offices and public schools will take up the cause, and encourage employees, visitors and parents to forego automobile use on Earth Day.

Int. No. 779 – Providing certain parking privileges for press vehicles (Oppose)

While we strongly support freedom of the press, we do not support freedom of the press’s parking, and therefore, we’re opposed to Intro 779.  New York City already suffers greatly from the rampant abuse of “official” parking privileges, and having to feed a parking meter or respect time limits or otherwise obey parking rules in no way hampers the ability of press photographers or camerapersons to do their jobs.

This Committee and the City Council should be engaged in seeking ways to reduce official parking privileges and abuse of placards, not in giving away more curb space for free.  There would be no way for a traffic enforcement agent or police officer to discern if a press vehicle was parked for the purpose of coverage of a news event, so this proposed rule would also be ripe for abuse.

We oppose Intro 779, and urge its withdrawal.

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