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traffic accidents Archives | Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C.

Horse-drawn carriages in New York: Accidents waiting to happen?

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Horse drawn carriages are a staple tourist attraction in Manhattan and they are a part of the rich fabric of city life. However, some are calling for their elimination, and a recent traffic accident has fuelled opponents’ concerns.

A carriage horse named Oreo startled when metal beams noisily fell at a construction site on West 59th Street, causing him to bolt. The six-year-old Oreo took his driver and two passengers, tourists from Australia, on a terrifying ride through Columbus Circle. According to the driver, Oreo broke loose from his harness and ran about four blocks before he collapsed. He apparently ran into several cars during his effort to escape. The carriage overturned, spilling the driver and passengers onto the street. They were not seriously injured and were released from Bellevue Hospital.

Several incidents involving horse-drawn cabs have occurred in recent years. Advocates of banning horse-drawn carriages from the streets of New York point to other places, such as London, Beijing and Toronto, as cities that have eliminated horse drawn vehicles from their streets.

A spokesperson for the group Coalition to Ban Horse-drawn Carriages said that although no people had been killed recently in New York City, there have been fatalities in other cities where horse drawn vehicles are present. In Iowa, a passenger who was thrown from the carriage during a parade died n 2010. And in Salzburg, Austria, a bystander was killed when a spooked carriage horse ran into her, “Horses are accidents waiting to happen,” according to Elizabeth Forel, president of the group.

However, Mayor Bloomberg and many others are reluctant to end horse-drawn carriages in New York. During his weekly radio address, the mayor noted, “I think it’s something that a lot of tourists really love. It would be a shame to lose them.”

And what of Oreo? His driver, Mehmet Dundar, said, “It’s not the horse’s fault.” However, Oreo’s days as a carriage horse are probably over. Carriage horses are sent to farms in the tri-state region when they retire from city carriage duty.

Source:

Source: Daily News, “Carriage driver says horse Oreo not to blame,” Aug. 17, 2012.


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Bike riders and cops: Can’t we just get along?

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Bicycle Accidents on Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Bicycle riders and police officers don’t always get along very well in New York City. Bike riders have a reputation for flouting traffic rules, and cops don’t always know which rules to enforce and which to ignore. The number of people riding bicycles in New York has grown in recent years, and will certainly increase when bike sharing comes to the city in the spring.  Both police and advocates are concerned that the number of bicycle accidents will also grow. 

Bike advocates note that many police officers live in the suburbs and don’t really understand bicycle issues. They have a “windshield perspective,” according to a spokesperson for Bike New York, an advocacy group.

The Midtown Community Court in Manhattan began sentencing delinquent bike riders to a rider education course. The class includes a survey of city and state traffic laws that relate to bicycle riding and tips on safe riding in the city. The class also discusses the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.

According to the teacher of the class, Rich Conroy, the types of violations that should get bike riders sentenced to the class include running red lights, riding the wrong way, riding on the sidewalk and not riding with lights at night. However, officers are not sending riders to class for these types of violations, Conroy says.

Rather, he has had students sentenced to class for riding in the bus lane and not riding in the bike lane. However, the violations that could result in serious injury or death seem to be under-represented in his classes. Conroy said, “I’m not sure how the officers who are doing the ticketing are being trained.”

When asked about laws he would like to do away with, Conroy said, “I would like to see the rule about mandatory use of bike lanes simply go away. … It is confusing. What is a “usable” bike lane? I think officers who aren’t experienced at cycling and don’t ride around much in the city aren’t going to understand that a bike lane that’s striped right next to parked cars, in what we call the Door Zone, is really dangerous. You can get killed by a car door that opens up suddenly.”

Source: Atlanticcities.com, “In New York, Toward a Harmony of Police and Cyclists,” Aug. 27, 2012.


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Battle between bikes and cars part of a longstanding history in NYC

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Bicycle Accidents on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The battle between motorized vehicles and pedal-powered rides such as bicycles has been part of life in New York City for a long time. An activist group, Transportation Alternatives, has been pushing cycling in the city as a way to reduce accidents, congestion and pollution since the late 1960s.

Big push began in the late 1960s

This group and others have not only advocated for bicycle riders, but have also argued that bike riding is an essential part of the city’s transportation infrastructure and as important as buses, subways and taxis. In fact, some have said that bike riding is more important. In 1968, for example, a demonstration in front of the General Motors building proposed banning motorized vehicles from Manhattan altogether.

In 1972, other activists urged the city to provide free bikes for everyone. In 1973, the groups went public with a bike ride down Fifth Avenue that snarled traffic in all directions for miles. During the oil crisis of the 1970s, bike riding became much more popular, and the city established a few bike lanes on major streets. However, these disappeared when the oil crisis abated and the city’s economy improved in the 1980s.

The prosperous 1980s slowed bike advocates to a crawl

During this time, the pendulum swung the other way, and there were proposals to ban bicycles from Manhattan. However, Transportation Alternatives soldiered on, obtaining grant money in the 1990s and achieving the support of a few people in the city’s transportation departments. However, change was slow until 2007, when bike advocate Janette Sadik-Khan was appointed head of the city’s Transportation Department.

2007 saw a big change at the top re bicycling

Sadik-Khan brought several leading Transportation Alternatives members into the department, and change occurred quickly. However, some critics have responded that the inmates have take over the prison, criticizing Sadik-Kahn for appointments such as that of Jon Orcutt, who once ran Transportation Alternatives.

The changes were speedy: Hundreds of new bike lanes and pedestrian plazas were developed, parking spots disappeared and streets became narrower to slow traffic. Although banning cars from Manhattan won’t happen any time soon, the city’s bike share program – almost free, as proposed in the 1970s – will start at some point soon. Expected to be ready by July, there have been delays in the assembling of the bicycles and stands. City officials are hoping that the bikes will still be ready before the snow flies.

Despite its role as part of the power structure in New York City, Transportation Alternatives continues to advocate for the non-motorized. It is currently encouraging the New York Police Department to conduct more thorough investigations of accidents between pedestrians, bike riders and cars. The goal: To reduce speeding and reduce traffic deaths to zero. It has also proposed wider bike paths across the Brooklyn Bridge, discussed earlier in this blog.

Source: New York Times, “For bike advocates, delayed gratification,” by David Goodman, Aug. 10, 2012.


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City takes steps to reduce accidents and injuries by lowering speed limits

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Spurred in part by the addition of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas in the middle of wide streets, New York City will institute a lower speed limit in as many as 13 additional neighborhoods, reducing speed to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.

The first so-called neighborhood slow zone was started in November, in the Claremont section of the Bronx. The result, according to city officials, was a 10 percent reduction in speeding in the area.

The new zones will be in neighborhoods such as:

•· Corona in Queens

•· Boerum Hill in Brooklyn

•· Riverdale in the Bronx

•· Inwood in Manhattan

•· Rosebank on Staten Island

These neighborhoods were selected based on their history of car accidents, community support, and the presence of schools, senior centers and day care operations. The new zones may also have speed bumps and special signs.

Transportation officials cited data showing that pedestrians hit by cars going 40 miles per hour had a 30 percent chance of surviving. A reduction in speed of only 10 miles per hour raised the survival rate to 80 percent. People hit by motor vehicles travelling at 20 miles per hour had a 95 percent chance of survival.

Other efforts to reduce pedestrian accidents and fatalities include installing speed cameras that would monitor drivers and issue speeding citations automatically. A bill to accomplish this has stalled in Albany, and city officials have expressed their frustration.

The first so-called neighbourhood slow zone was started in November, in the Claremont section of the Bronx. The result, according to city officials, was a 10 percent reduction in speeding in the area.

The new zones will be in neighbourhoods such as:

  • Corona in Queens
  • Boerum Hill in Brooklyn
  • Riverdale in the Bronx
  • Inwood in Manhattan
  • Rosebank on Staten Island

These neighbourhoods were selected based on their history of car accidents, community support, and the presence of schools, senior centers and day care operations. The new zones may also have speed bumps and special signs.

Transportation officials cited data showing that pedestrians hit by cars going 40 miles per hour had a 30 percent chance of surviving. A reduction in speed of only 10 miles per hour raised the survival rate to 80 percent. People hit by motor vehicles travelling at 20 miles per hour had a 95 percent chance of survival.

Other efforts to reduce pedestrian accidents and fatalities include installing speed cameras that would monitor drivers and issue speeding citations automatically. A bill to accomplish this has stalled in Albany, and city officials have expressed their frustration.

Source: New York Times, “City Expands 20 M.P.H. Zones Across More Neighborhoods,” by Matt Flegenheimer, July 10, 2012.


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Death by dooring only a traffic violation

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Bicycle Accidents on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Apparently, it is not a crime to injure or kill someone by opening a car door, an act known as “dooring.”. This was demonstrated when a Queens cyclist was killed on Union Turnpike when he “struck a parked car at the location when the operator of the vehicle opened his door,” according to police. NYPD stated through a spokesperson that no criminality is suspected and no arrests have been made,

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states:

No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonable safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of the vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Violators of this portion of the state’s traffic laws may can receive a $150 fine, whether or not the victim dies. NYPD reportedly does not collect statistics on how many tickets are issued for this type of bicycle accident. Generally, traffic laws apply to vehicles that are moving, rather than vehicles that are parked.

If dooring was made a criminal act, police would need to investigate, something they seldom do unless someone dies. The city’s Accident Investigation Squad (AIS) is seriously underfunded, forcing police to take action only when a fatality is involved.

The deceased, Tskaka Cooke, was an experienced cyclist and former bike messenger and was working at the Big Apple Circus. His best friend, Jean Sagarra, told a reporter that Cooke was not the only loved one she had lost to a bike accident. Her father was killed in a bike accident in the Bronx in 1980. She said, “I have a real bad feeling about bicycles.”

Source: Gothamist, “It’s Still Not A Crime To Kill Someone With Your Car Door,” June 25, 2012.


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Even Fatal Pedestrian Accidents Often Result in No Charges in NYC

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Hitting a pedestrian with a car is apparently not a crime in New York City. This fact was highlighted in a recent accident that left actor Michael McKean and two other pedestrians injured. The crash that involved two vehicles that collided and lost control occurred at Broadway and 86th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

McKeen was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in critical condition, bleeding from the head. He was subsequently diagnosed with a broken leg and upgraded to stable condition.

A nearby doorman was heard to say, “That’s a horrible corner, a very dangerous corner.” He added that drivers run red lights all the time at this intersection. Despite the injuries, the Daily News reported that no criminality was suspected. This is typical; drivers are rarely charged after causing accidents that kill or injured pedestrians.

In 2011, for example, 241 people riding bicycles or walking were killed by motor vehicles, but only 17 drivers were charged with criminal offenses. No drivers were charged last year after causing accidents that resulted in injuries.

The New York City Council conducted hearings to determine why drivers are seldom if ever charged in pedestrian accidents, asking why accident-causing drivers don’t even receive traffic summonses for running red lights, failing to yield, or speeding? The answer apparently is that the city does not have the resources. Only 23 officers are assigned to the city’s Accident Investigation Squad, and they don’t have time to do much more than investigate the worst fatal accidents.

Pedestrians have been second-class citizens in New York City for some time. For example, the concept of “jaywalking,” introduced in the 1920s, suggests that pedestrians, rather than drivers, are the law-breakers.

Source: New York Magazine, “Hitting Pedestrians With a Car Still Not Criminal in New York City,” by Joe Coscareli, May 23, 2012.


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Recent Projects Improve Pedestrian Safety on New York City Streets

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Personal Injury on Thursday, February 9th, 2012

New York’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Kahn, said recently that recent declines in traffic- related deaths are attributable in part to the city’s aggressive campaign to improve street safety. Some of these projects and changes include:

•· Pedestrian plazas in the middle of intersections

•· Better marking of crosswalks

•· Bike lanes

•· Timed traffic signals, often called countdown signals, at pedestrian crossings

•· More aggressive enforcement of traffic laws

•· Poetic reminders and safety messages posted a high-accident locations near schools and cultural institutions

•· Slow traffic zones around schools

•· Closing streets permanently or temporarily

Despite improvements such as these, drivers still ignore stop signs and violate speed limits routinely. Ms. Sadik-Kahn said that they represent only the beginning of a long-term campaign to improve street safety in New York. Many of the improvements listed above resulted from a detailed statistical survey of traffic accidents that was released in 2010. The traffic commissioner, who was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2007, has set ambitious goals for reducing traffic fatalities.

Source: New York Times, “Personal Health: Giving City Streets Built-In Safety Features,” by Jane Brody, Feb. 6. 2012.


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