Summer 2001, p.11
"Fat Trucks", Speed and Red Light Cameras
Speed Camera Legislation Gets Editorial Nod
In July, T.A.'s fight for a state law allowing NYC to use 20 cameras to monitor speeding drivers got a big boost when both Newsday and the Daily News fired off heated supporting editorials. The speed camera bill, number 7355-A, is stalled in the Assembly Transportation Committee, the victim of State Assemblyman David F. Gantt, who fears for the privacy of speeding motorists. T.A. has documented that NYC's "grid-locked" streets are actually traveled on by many high velocity motorists driving far over the speed limit. Speeding is the number one contributing cause of cycling and pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Speed cameras are backed by the mayor, police, DOT and City Council, and thanks to Senator Frank Padavan, passed the State Senate. Hopefully, the editorials will give Assembly Sponsor Deborah Glick the persuasive oomph she needs to pass this bill into law.
This statistic is staggering: motorists run 1.23 million red lights in New York every workday. According to a report by Comptroller (and mayoral candidate) Alan Hevesi, the worst intersection for red light running in Manhattan is 79th St. and Madison Ave., and the five worst intersections in Brooklyn are close to schools. So who is running all those red lights? Not taxis. They account for only 2% of the violations (14% in Manhattan). The vast majority of violators are passenger vehicles, and they overwhelmingly have in-state license plates (98%). According to Hevesi, other cities are taking red light runners head on. For NYC to equal the same coverage as Washington D.C., it would need 338 red light cameras. To equal San Diego 251. In the most pedestrian-dependent city in the country, red light running is especially dangerous.
These statistics make a strong case for adding many more red light cameras in NYC. Red light cameras have been shown to reduce crashes by 40%. The city currently has 35 cameras, and had intended to install 100 more. However, in an odd role reversal, the State Senate rejected the mayor's request to make the DOT's red light cameras permanent, and to increase their number to 100. NYC currently has 35 cameras, and at the legislature's request, the city reduced its request from 100 to 50 new cameras (Bill A 05829). T.A. strongly supports the city's original goal of 100 new red light cameras, and finds it odd that the Senate passed speed camera legislation while rejecting the red light camera expansion.
Along with fighting for laws we want to see put into action, T.A. spends time fighting destructive legislation. A bill stealthily promoted by the construction and trucking industry (A. 9230, S. 5561) would have allowed heavier trucks into the city, and sharply reduced fines for existing overweight trucks. T.A. was tipped off by the Mayor's Office about the impending new bill, and quickly organized opposition from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, and NRDC.
Another dangerous bill is A006819, which would allow cars to make right turns at red lights on Staten Island.
This bill is opposed by the mayor and DOT, and with good reason: if it passes (which looks probable), crossing a street will become even more dangerous for pedestrians. A huge body of evidence shows that most motorists do not stop before turning right at red lights. Also because they are focused on oncoming traffic, they do not look for cyclists and pedestrians.
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