StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on School Bus Stop-Arm Cameras, Bike & Pedestrian Mayors

We were at City Hall yesterday to testify at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation hearing on school bus stop-arm cameras, and bills that would create Offices of Active Transportation and Pedestrians. Here's what we had to say:

There are few transgressions a driver can commit behind the wheel of an automobile that are more egregious than passing a stopped school bus picking up or discharging children, and for that reason alone, we support Intro 1724, which would create a demonstration program to install stop-arm cameras on school buses. The danger of such driver action is underscored by the severity of the penalties for doing so: a $250 fine, five license points, and the possibility of 30 days in jail.

The act of passing a stopped school bus is born either from impatient, callous indifference to the dangers it imposes on others, or a degree of distraction so great that one fails to notice a big, bright yellow school bus deploying flashing lights and a large red stop sign. Neither is remotely acceptable, yet according to some reports, it occurs up to 50,000 times per day in the state of New York.

Fortunately, given the penalties, the rate of recidivism is low, as low as 2% to 6%, per statistics. But enforcement is also nearly non-existent; under current laws, a police officer must witness the infraction in order to issue a ticket. Stop-arm cameras have tremendous potential to improve enforcement, in the same way that school-zone speed cameras have begun holding dangerous drivers accountable.

While we urge the Council to pass Intro 1724, we also believe it’s imperative that the Council makes certain that the Department of Transportation is provided with the necessary resources for administering a school bus stop-arm camera program. The millions of violations caught by existing speed and red-light cameras all require review, and staffing and operating those positions is a tremendous challenge that will only grow with the addition of stop-arm violations. The burden for managing that can’t just be dropped legislatively on NYCDOT without adequate funding, and we urge the Council to make sure those resources are provided.

We also support Intros 1812 and 1813, which would establish an Office of Active Transportation and an Office of Pedestrians, respectively. While there is some merit to the idea that these offices should be combined, the important thing is to establish these oversight positions, which would coordinate among different agencies to advance the causes of New Yorkers who get around on bike and on foot.

“Bicycle Mayors” in cities like Amsterdam, London and Sydney have helped those cities greatly increase cycling trips. Placing the offices in City Hall is critical for ensuring that bike and pedestrian initiatives operate across, and involve, the multiple agencies necessary for successful implementation.

The Offices of Active Transportation and Pedestrians would have critical roles to play in improving the safety of our streets, advocating for the needs of cyclists and pedestrians, and ensuring that the city employs best practices in executing infrastructure projects. Such positions have borne fruit in a number of places around the world, and it’s an idea that’s ripe for New York City. Let’s pass these bills without delay.

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published this page in News 2019-12-17 16:03:44 -0500
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