NYPD, DOT Jaywalking Crackdown Blames Victims

Why Are Cops Chasing Pedestrians Instead of Dangerous Drivers and Scofflaws?

Pedestrian safety advocates today decried a new NYPD and DOT plan to increase jaywalking enforcement. "The City's response to the horrible conditions for pedestrian safety is to blame the victim. Speeding, lawless taxis, oversize trucks and reckless motorists abound, but NYPD and DOT focus on harassing pedestrians. Let's make one thing clear: 249 New York City pedestrians were killed, and 12,730 injured last year because the city's primary goal is moving motor vehicles, not people," said Paul Harrison, Campaign Coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, a 3,500 member street safety group.

The disparity between reality and the City's actions is highlighted by a Transportation Alternatives study. According to New York State DOT data, only 18.3 percent of pedestrian accidents occurred when the pedestrian was crossing against the light. Compared to the 35.0 percent who were crossing with the signal, or even the 2.4 percent who were not in the roadway (i.e on the sidewalk), this suggests that the City should concentrate on real answers to pedestrian safety. These include posting speed limit signs (try asking a cabbie what the speed limit is!), massively increasing the number of red light cameras and hounding the real killers: dangerous drivers like Leroy Linen, who was arrested for driving without a license days after being released from a 10 month jail sentence for driving with over 800 suspensions!

A case in point is the violent deaths last month of 80 year old Eugenia Renom and 50 year old Angelica Chorberg at the corner of Central Park South and Seventh Avenue. A study by Transportation Alternatives showed that the intersection is a pedestrian death-trap, and that the deaths of the two women were a tragedy waiting to happen. Transportation Alternatives offered the DOT three cheap and easy solutions that would make the intersection much safer to cross, without adding to congestion. These included lengthening the walk time, installing a signal period where all cars stop and pedestrians can cross without fear, and building neckdowns extensions of the sidewalk into the parking lane at the corner that would shorten the distance people need to cross by 16 feet. The DOT's response: Blame Ms. Renom and Ms. Chorberg because they were "jaywalking," even though it's a challenge for young, able-bodied people to cross the street in the time given. DOT even posted signs at the intersection telling pedestrians to make sure they got out of the way if the back wheels of big trucks jumped onto the sidewalk!

New York is America's Walking City. Yet many crossing times are too short for all but the most able-bodied of us. It's entirely possible that Ms. Renom started crossing the street when the signal said "walk," but ran out of time to cross the street.

Pedestrian Accidents in Manhattan -

Action of Pedestrian When Accident Occured

January 1989-August 1994

% of total

% with cause

Type

11.7

Unknown

30.9

35.0

Crossing with signal

16.2

18.3

Crossing against signal

2.3

1.7

Crossing with crosswalk, no signal

13.3

9.6

Crossing, no signal or crosswalk

1.0

0.8

Along highway with traffic

0.4

0.3

Along highway against traffic

6.8

5.5

Emerging from parked vehicle

0.1

0.1

Child on/off school bus

1.7

1.4

Child getting on/off vehicle

0.3

0.3

Pushing/working on car

1.6

1.4

Getting on/off vehicle

0.9

0.8

Playing in roadway

10.3

9.2

Other actions in roadway

2.5

2.4

Not in roadway

Analysis by Transportation Alternatives--from data provided by NYS Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Safety