By John Del Signore
on April 26, 2013 9:36 AM
The DOT has sent out a team of workers in reflective jackets to hold signs along heavily-trafficked bike corridors in an attempt to get cyclists to follow the rules. The new “Street Safety Managers” are all current DOT employees who have been rotated away from their usual tasks in the name of safety. Because clearly the most urgent threat to safety on NYC streets is the bicycle.
Eight Street Safety Managers (or SSMs, if you prefer) will be assigned to different locations in Manhattan weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours from April through October. They don’t have any enforcement power beyond throwing shade, but they do have hand-held signs saying “STOP/Wrong Way” to discourage “salmoning.” On bridge paths, SSMs will “reinforce existing separations of pedestrian and cyclist paths by directing users to the appropriate entrance and discouraging wrong-way entrances and exits.”
The SSMs made their debut as hundreds of Citi Bike ports have appeared throughout parts of NYC, in anticipation of a wave of new cyclists when the bike share program debuts next month. “Our streets have never been safer and we’re educating everyone on how to use them safely, and enforcing against those who don’t,” Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement. “With more people out in the warm weather we’re committed to doing even more to get out the message that safety is the rule of the road.”
Sure, it couldn’t hurt; there are certainly plenty of inconsiderate and inexperienced cyclists out there. But we’d love to see the same overbearing attention paid to reckless drivers. The number one cause of death and injury in NYC remains, by far, motorists, and the NYPD has been widely criticized for failing to enforce traffic laws and press criminal charges when they’re flagrantly violated. In the latest example of the NYPD’s “no criminality suspected” default position when it comes to drivers, a woman driving a minivan ran a red light in Park Slope, sending another van careening into a deli and nearly killing two joggers. Her explanation? She was ‘stressed’ from family issues and admitted she may have been distracted. No charges were filed.
155 pedestrians and cyclists were killed by drivers in 2012. Zero pedestrians were killed by cyclists. At a press conference last September, we asked Sadik-Khan if the DOT was doing anything to work with the NYPD to increase enforcement on reckless drivers, and she said, “We are working very closely with NYPD, and Commissioner Kelly in particular, on the accident investigations that take place in the city of New York and we are working on some campaigns on that regard as well.”
Sadik-Khan would not get into specifics, and it’s unclear what impact the DOT had on the NYPD’s enforcement of reckless drivers, or lack thereof. But in what may prove to be mere lipstick on a pig, in March the NYPD changed the name of its woefully understaffed Accident Investigation Squad to the Collision Investigation Squad, because “the term ‘accident’ has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly explained.