UWS Traffic Fatalities Have Spiked; Locals Call for More Traffic Enforcement after Enforcement Declines

Aftermath of an October crash on W. 79th Street near Broadway 

By Joy Bergmann

During its November meeting, Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee noted a “significant spike” in traffic fatalities in CB7 with nine so far this year compared to two in 2020 and four in 2019. 

“If we had nine people killed by guns, the community would be up in arms,” said CB7 member Richard Robbins, who compiled and presented the fatalities data. “There were 389 injuries reported by the NYPD in our district in addition to the nine fatalities.” 

Screenshot from CB7’s 2021 fatalities data presentation

The Upper West Side is not alone in this rise in traffic violence. As the Times noted in a recent analysis, traffic deaths citywide have surged to their highest level in nearly a decade. While the addition of more than 120,000 newly registered vehicles in the city may have played a role in this uptick, street safety experts say poor driver behavior — perhaps exacerbated by the pandemic — is the primary cause.

“Because of Covid, we’re experiencing disorder in all parts of society and one of the ways it plays out is through reckless driving and bad driving decisions,” Julia Kite-Laidlaw from NYC’s Department of Transportation told the CB7 meeting attendees. “We know that all of the [street redesign] engineering work that we’ve done with Vision Zero did not vanish between 2020 and 2021. What we do know has changed is driver behavior.“

Specifically, Kite-Laidlaw said, “When we drill down to what the investigations into these fatal crashes are showing, we’re seeing a lot of speeding, failure to yield. We’re seeing a shocking number of hit and runs, and hit and runs often conceal a lot of other wrongdoing like unlicensed driving or DWI.”

When asked how the community could help reverse the dangerous trend, Kite-Laidlaw pointed to the importance of passing the pending State legislation asking for speed cameras to run 24/7.  Currently, “we can only run those cameras 6am to 10pm on weekdays,” she said, noting that last year, “about one third of non-highway fatalities happened in school speed zones where there are cameras but at times when the cameras were not allowed to operate.”  

Additionally, DOT wants to see NYPD officers doing more. “We are also working with our counterparts at NYPD to bring up some of the in-person enforcement we cannot ask cameras to do,” said Kite-Laidlaw. “Because, quite frankly, if people believe enforcement is going to be consistent and swift, that will deter their behavior.” 

CB7 member Susan Schwartz called the current streetscape “terrifying” for pedestrians. “We need enforcement for everything. Everything.”

“NYPD never speaks about traffic enforcement, either at the citywide level or local level,” added Robbins. “It’s always an afterthought for them, at best…Enforcement is dramatically down in our district this year.”  Representatives from the 20th and 24th Precincts were not present at the meeting to comment.

Robbins then asked for a resolution calling on the NYPD to “step up its enforcement.” The Committee decided to table that idea for now, in favor of crafting a resolution supporting the DOT’s efforts to operate speed and red light enforcement cameras 24/7. The Committee also unanimously called for a total removal of the state limit on the number of such cameras, enabling the city to vastly expand the enforcement program.

According to the latest NYPD data, Robbins is correct about the drop in enforcement locally.

The NYPD’s Upper West Side precincts continue to issue far fewer tickets to drivers [including e-bikers] than in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Comparing 2019 to 2021 totals for the August through October period, the 20th Precinct issued 37% fewer moving violation summonses and the 24th Precinct wrote 34% fewer tickets. 

WSR pulled the NYPD data on tickets issued for some key offenses:

 

WSR asked the 20th Precinct’s Captain Neil Zuber and the 24th Precinct’s Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi to comment on the traffic enforcement numbers. Neither has responded; WSR will update this story if they do.   

NYPD data show the ticketing decrease is also a citywide phenomenon, with overall moving violations summonses down 41%, according to WSR’s analysis. 

WSR asked the NYPD to comment on the issue. A spokesperson referred us to a November 4th press release promising, “major education and enforcement efforts aimed to shift driver behavior…” and a renewed call for “state legislation to allow New York City’s automated speed cameras to operate 24/7.”

NEWS | 56 comments | permalink
    1. Pri says:

      Everyday I see drag racers in west side highway. So dangerous

    2. Irate Partisan says:

      What’s the most dangerous thing in New York City? Bad drivers. Important story, thanks WSR!

    3. Mark Moore says:

      There are only maybe 4 speed cameras in the whole UWS. And I don’t know how effective more $50 tickets for going 36 MPH would be anyway.

      You can probably discount the two fatalities that took place on the Henry Hudson Parkway. One of those was a guy on a Citibike. Those aren’t really “local” anyway.

      Seems like you’re a lot safer in a car.

      • Richard Robbins says:

        Mark – I thought about whether to include them in my report. Even at 7, the spike in fatalities this year is horrible — we’ve had far fewer fatalities every year since 2016. But CB7’s district does go to the Hudson River so the highway goes through our district. And as Pri noted in the above comment, there are frequently people racing on the highway (and I never see enforcement, even of people driving far above the 50 MPH speed limit). Whether or not people are “local,” traffic fatalities are tragic. Plus, I wonder if cracking down on speeding on the highway could help set a tone that traffic laws actually are enforced in NYC?

        • Alice Cooper says:

          The highway is designed to accommodate vehicles much faster than the 50 mph speed limit. The overwhelming majority of NYPD Highway Patrol officers won’t even pull a car over for going 61 or 62 mph in a 50 mph zone, it wouldn’t be right for the camera to ticket people driving in a way a cop wouldn’t pull them over for.

      • Josh says:

        The number of speed cameras in the 90’s have drastically increased in the last few months. The longstanding camera on 96th just after the RSD overpass I assume is still working. They have added 2 on 96th, 2 on CPW, and at least one on Amsterdam and at least 2 on Broadway. I dont think the red light camera at 96th and Amsterdam is working correctly anymore and especially does not catch people turning when the arrow is red.

    4. Paul says:

      There’s no reason why we can’t have more enforcement including red light and speed cameras everywhere. Increase the monetary penalties and put far greater penalties on driving that results in severe injury or death.

      But with two of the nine fatalities from ebikes and two on the highway the practical difference vis driving of cars is an increase of one.

      Hopefully, the two dead from ebike/scooters isn’t a preview of things to come. But measures to limit that are warranted as well. Start with pulling every illegally unregistered vehicle off the street.

      • Richard Robbins says:

        I hope more can be done to prevent tragedies, whether they’re on city streets or on the highway. Only one of the fatalities was from an ebike. The other was a hit and run vehicle that I believe was an illegal moped.

        Especially with that in mind, I completely agree that illegal vehicles should be removed from our streets. I know it’s a huge challenge for NYPD to do so, especially as they don’t want to get into high speed chases that could endanger more people, but the illegal vehicles are troubling.

        • Paul says:

          Any vehicle that’s supposed to be registered and plated can be picked up from its parking spot as long as it’s on public property — a street or sidewalk. No need to chase them.

      • Chase says:

        I want red light cameras on every intersection, speed cameras on every avenue, cameras covering bike lanes, cameras on buses for bus stop violations, cameras to ticket for double parking. Give me the panopticon.

    5. Lizzie says:

      While fatalities are an important statistic, the 389 injuries are the real story. A crash may not kill you, but if you’re seriously injured, your life will be changed — and maybe ruined — forever.

      The real questions is when will prosecutors start charging motorists who make “illegal turns” and “fail to yield” with reckless endangerment, manslaughter or homicide?

      I’m not the first to point out that if you ever want to kill someone, hit them with a car. You’ll walk away with a moving violation and a few points on your license.

      • Irate Partisan says:

        Exactly. Ever been hit by a car? We’re talking years–if not permanent–mobility issues. All because somebody had to text their friend “haha.” Ugh!

    6. John Young says:

      Bikes, e-powered and pedaled, have increased threats to pedestrians adding to those of vehicles. Traffic lights are often ignored, some riders hop onto sidewalks, bike lanes are risky to walk across. Probably time to add rider licenses, education, training to compensate for the thrill of zooming along pubic spaces. Not to overlook the scooters, unicycles, skateboarders. Still noisy, polluting, speeding, attacking, sirening cars, trucks, motorcycles, helicopters don’t deserve less attention. Thanks for peace and quiet.

      • sean says:

        yes, I have videos of bikes hopping onto the sidewalks . coming right at me. Another Guy i asked him to please get off the sidewalk: he was going south around ABC. passed me while I was walking North up the sidewalk. When i politely asked him to not ride on the sidewalk. He got off his bike and tried to threaten me by changing direction and walking towards me..

        UWS.. people .. You all need to start caring about the vehicle debacles: E-bikes. lights being run..

        STOP MAKING EXCUSES. We pay THE PENSIONS ETC OF THE COPS.. THEY USED TO AT LEAST SIT IN THEIR CARS… WHERE ARE THEY???

        What a dangerous mess and threat cars, bikes, , citi bikes delivery bikes, and even people themselves.. I have never seem a mess this bad. And deaths to pedestrians.. Shame on my UWS.

        • marie Ames says:

          bikes and related have ruined this city!
          So dangerous for pedestrians.

          • MH says:

            Bikes, including e-bikes (and skateboards), NEVER stop for red lights–never, never, unless the RIDER’S safety is threatened by cars. Bike lanes are a terror, a free-for-all, completely unregulated; bikes speeding in the wrong lanes–pedestrians crossing the street put their lives in peril. It’s unacceptable. Yet the police do nothing at all. Can’t something be done?? Whose city is this?

            • Elizabeth Kellner says:

              At 6:30 PM last night I was at the Bway and 105th median crossing from east to west. There were 17 seconds left in the countdown clock so I figured I had plenty of time. Four e-bikers ran the red light headed south, Today at 10:30 am I was crossing Columbus east to west at 104th, A young man on a Citibike was in the bike lane headed north (it’s a one way southbound street) AND he ran the red light.

    7. your_neighbor says:

      The e-bike and e-scooter guys going 25-30mph in the bike lanes and on the sidewalks are going to kill somebody eventually.

    8. John says:

      If cops would hang out at the stop sign at 103 and Riverside Drive (the side road not the main one) they’d probably find half the bad drivers. I’ve seen drivers plow thru that stop sign at 30 mph, then there are the others that illegally turn into big Riverside on 104 from the side road. I’m seeing lots of Jersey cars with paper plates doing this. I have no doubt those tags are fakes pulled from a laser printer.

      Also when do we get resident parking permits? I recall Mark Levine said he supported that TWO years ago.

      • Dave says:

        If cops would hang out at 76/riverside they would probably find the other half. 3-4 or more cars go through the red at 60+ mph going south in am – same situation northbound in afternoons. The police do nothing. Zero enforcement. Crazy millionaire construction project double parking everyday complying the danger. My dog on leash came inches from being hit in the crosswalk the other day when a car went through a red not a yellow

      • UWS political analyst says:

        If we are going to have parking permits on the UWS. We must include those who work here too.

    9. lynn says:

      “If we had nine people killed by guns, the community would be up in arms,” said CB7 member Richard Robbins.

      I agree that traffic fatalities are a real issue, but I don’t understand this statement at all. Why aren’t we already up in arms about multiple people who were shot, or shot at, or robbed at gunpoint in this neighborhood? Are we literally waiting for 9 people to be killed before it’s addressed? 🙁

    10. Tom says:

      “What we do know has changed is driver behavior.” -DOT

      Kind of a weird statement, since more than half of those fatalities don’t seem attributable to that, unless they’re really stretching the definition of “driver”. I feel like the major influx of two-wheeled vehicles – which brings them into dangerous contact with cars and trucks at intersections – is a slightly more obvious culprit here. Maybe the larger list of injuries, rather than fatalities, are more indicative of the DOT’s quote?

    11. Not a Fan says:

      The 20th Precinct does absolutely *nothing* for traffic enforcement, and this is proof.

      Get rid of the precinct commander & put someone in charge who is proactive on this issue.

      If you tally up homicides in the past 4 years in this precinct, you will have fewer than the 9 traffic fatalities this year. I think vehicular traffic is the most pressing public safety issue in the area by these numbers, no?

    12. ml says:

      Very sad.

      1.In NYC most vehicle-related fatalities involve drivers under the influence, unlicensed drivers, and drivers with criminal history. Many occur at night.

      Laws and street changes unlikely to impact these unlawful drivers.

      2. Also more inexperienced drivers now on the road due to ecommerce explosion.

    13. Marci says:

      If they would start making the bikes obey traffic rules like stopping at lights not riding on sidewalks and to obey one way directions things would improve

      • Josh says:

        Right, because if every person riding a bike stopped at every red light, drivers in cars will stop hitting people. If no bike riders rode on the sidewalk, drivers in cars would never kill a pedestrian. If the bike lanes weren’t there, no one would drive drunk. Makes total sense to me.

        It’s not that bad behavior of cyclists isn’t a problem. It is most definitely a problem. But when you have an issue that is staring you in the face with a straight forward cause – people are getting hit and KSI (killed or seriously injured) by cars at an alarming rate, the answer is not to change the focus to another issue that is only tangentially related to the major issue at hand.

    14. This was a good report with lots of color plus the statistics to back it up.

      This is a good Rag; without it we’re just a bunch of streets populated solely by small virtually staged, over-priced apartments.

      This especially caught my eye:

      “When we drill down… we’re seeing a lot of… failure to yield. We’re seeing a shocking number of hit and runs…”

      Which somehow reminded me of Congress, & in turn reminded me why we’re getting so little done on the national level too: failure to yield.

      This is where we are these days.

    15. Dr. Laura Marrs says:

      However you look at it it all comes down to our city and state’s elected officials not looking out for all of our safety and well being. What have they been doing? Going to candlelight vigils to keep more homeless people in our neighborhood? Following other politicians orders, and not thinking about their own constituents? It just goes to show the people on the UWS, the entire state as well as the country, that the next time you vote that you need to keep this problems in mind and certainly not vote for every candidate from one party. We all need to start thinking and researching so that we all make the best decisions going forward.

    16. Jim Demetrios says:

      Born and raised in Manhattan. Never have seen the traffic situation this bad. These days, I am more on the lookout for speeding bicycles and the idiots making deliveries that hop on the sidewalk and go 30mph. Then there I are the scooters and any other piece of equipment that clogs our sidewalks. I live on 61st and Freedom Place. No lights. Only stop signs that everyone ignores. Haven’t seen a cop in weeks. So no enforcement.

    17. Community says:

      People drive violently, people bike violently, walk violently act violently speak violently… — as a pedestrian, a driver, a person, we all can feel this violence — in the case of automobiles, drivers taking corners literally aiming to scare pedestrians. How often has this happened to me! To you!! There is an energy of aggression that is untethered! And a catch 22 for police who are in a dammed if they do dammed if they don’t situation— we all suffer in this all or nothing situation of violence. For example, defund the police and blame officers for acting causes officers to face situations where they have to risk loosing their job or opting out of there responsibilities… aggression, disruption, destabilization… these stories fold into each other. Always have and until common sense becomes common law — And it’s damaging for everyone. It is a systemic challenge but calling it that only becomes an everything is everything situation and that avoids the point. Let’s agree that Violent driving is beyond unacceptable and start there.

      • JL says:

        *edit* – public officers in law were killed because Trumpers didn’t like the results of the election.

    18. Maisie June says:

      Is it a coincidence that NYPD enforcement has fallen since 2020’s protests seeking police reform?

      • Glen says:

        It has been going down since DeBlasio took office, and we are far from alone in noticing this (see Eric Adams’ strong support from the outer boroughs, where hard to believe, things are worse). Speed bumps could be installed on every other block on RSD, and in the bike lanes, to slow traffic and, of course, beat cops could stop adults riding bikes and e-scooters on the sidewalk.

        • Josh says:

          Speed bumps make a lot of sense on a lot of streets. Maybe not to much on thoroughfares though. But in bike lanes? You realize none of those bikes are breaking the 25mph speed limit, right? Even the bikes are often topping out at 20mph. People say that the bikes are speeding, but they are actually not.

    19. Deborah says:

      I’ve lived on W. 102 and 103 for 30+ years. I have a car, and as a pedestrian and a driver, I’ve never seen it this bad. Last week I was walking across Broadway in day light and a driver at the W. 101 and Broadway red light heading North decided he didn’t want to wait, so he just drove ahead through the red – right in front of me. I’ve seen many, many drivers turn right on red – and not all of them had out of state plates. (There are NO signs stating “right on red is illegal”). E bicyclists are on the sidewalks and going the wrong way on one way streets. As a driver I’ve found driving on the Westside Highway is very scary: drivers drag race, pass on both sides, and almost all exceed the 50 mph speed limit. There is zero police presence on the highway. I respect the C.O. of the 24th precinct but he’s not doing enough locally to enforce the traffic laws. We’re much more likely to get a parking ticket than to get pulled over for running a stop sign on Riverside or a red light! There must be consequences for reckless driving of all motorized vehicles. I shouldn’t feel like I’m taking my life in my hand when I go for a walk or when I’m driving home.

    20. citylover says:

      There have to be better laws-and enforcement-of bikers and motorized bikers, mopeds and motorized skate boards. Most of those riding those ‘vehicles’ don’t bother with helmets, consider traffic lights as only a suggestion, ride on the sidewalks, and have the habit of cutting off cars, busses and trucks with no concern for their own safety.
      When I have approached police officers I was told to speak to the Mayor.

    21. Root of the Problem says:

      Do we know anything about where are the drivers who are hitting people are from? Like do they live in the city, are they commuting/visiting from the suburbs, are they tourists? I’m trying to figure out why this is so much higher now. Is it that we have so many people who bought cars during the pandemic who have never really driven with people in the streets and now they don’t know what to do? Is it that tourists don’t feel safe flying to the city for vacation and so they’re driving, then don’t know how to navigate the city streets? Or are these regular New Yorkers who drove before, but the streets were just so empty during covid they are having to relearn how to navigate them with people?

      I know a lot of people who had never driven more than once or twice in their life who bought a car during covid. Not that people should have to take the drivers test over and over again just because they live in Manhattan, but maybe we should consider having someone take the drivers test within a week or month of buying their first car?

    22. Marcia says:

      I am a senior citizen as are most of my friends. The E Bikes are treacherous. They do not, except for the rare exception, stop at the red lights. The bike lane right in front of the JCC Is one spot that I have never seen an E bike stop when the light is red. Another spot that is very treacherous is at 67th, 68th street and Amsterdam Avenue. The E bikes never stop when they do not have the light. NEVER!!! In addition many regular bike riders do not obey the lights. E bike drivers should wear a sign on the back of their jackets with the name of their employer. Licenses should be required. I and my friends are terrified when we cross the streets. COVID is a risk but getting hit by a reckless E bike or regular cyclist is more frightening.

    23. Kenny says:

      Please enforce traffic rules for E Bikes and cyclists that do not obey the traffic rules. The bike path in front of the JCC Is one example. The path at 67th and 68th on Amsterdam is another. I have never seen an E Bike stop at these spots!! Where is the enforcement? COVID Is a risk but these reckless drivers are just as bad in my opinion. Place a police,officer at these spots and you will see an improvement.

    24. BarbaraB says:

      Safety is a two-way street. No one in this group has offered “pedestrian education”. New Yorkers love to jaywalk. New Yorkers are always in a hurry, whether on foot, on a bike, a skateboard, scooter or automobile. Even public vehicles, buses and UPS and mail trucks are always in a rush. Perhaps everyone needs to take a moment and slow down, look around and wait for the light to change. New Yorkers don’t like to wait on the curb at the cross walk . They encroach into the street, putting themselves and others in peril. How about ticketing jaywalkers? How about better bicycle enforcement for those riding the wrong way, on the sidewalk, and speeding through lights? There are many dimensions to this issue. It needs to be reviewed ias a whole, not in finger pointing at one part of the problem.

    25. Dee says:

      The majority of traffic accidents are VEHICLES!! Cops are MIA…. But let’s keep talking about bikes

    26. Diane Baker says:

      I am feeling constantly endangered by electric bikes, especially delivery people. I know they’re pressured to make a living, but they’re regularly running red lights, driving on sidewalks and speeding. They’re also talking on phones and smoking, all potentially fatal distractions. Yet, I’ve not heard of any pressure to apply enforcement.

    27. Newcavendish says:

      Yes. We definitely need better traffic enforcement … aggressive driving and road-rage behavior seem to be getting worse. While we’re at it we also need enforcement against cars with (deliberately) non-functioning mufflers that make insufferable noise at all hours of the day.

      • Nevets K says:

        I believe all this talk about increased police enforcement of existing traffic laws is out of place.
        For surely, how are the police supposed to know that a car has an altered or a disabled muffler and can be heard for ten or twenty blocks? Can you hear such a thing? Can I?
        Also, how are the police supposed to spot cars drag racing on the West Side Highway, going at 90 to 110 miles per hour? Can you see such a thing? Can I? And could we take a picture of their license plates if two of us were in a trailing car — one of us with a camera in our hand? Could we?
        And, finally, how are the police supposed to see cars, trucks, bicycles, e bikes, and other assorted two-wheeled vehicles running red lights? Can you see such a thing? Can I?
        Surely, we are asking too much of our Finest!

    28. Roger Wolfe says:

      When I received my driver’s license in 1958, the police had a traffic unit who enforced the existing laws. At this time people seem to make up their own rules and there is no enforcement or consequences for infractions.
      As a senior with declining hearing and reflexes, I find the bike lanes dangerous and bike riders do not obey lights, have licenses nor carry insurance.
      Speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians are also rampant.
      Driving a car or an ebike or a bicycle is a not a right! Drunken driving and the use of drugs while driving should be punished with prison terms.

    29. Ken says:

      My 9-year-old son and I were walking back from his school playground Saturday, crossing Columbus on 89th east to west. We stopped at the bike lane, as we always do and an e-bike flew past us, going at least 30-40 mph (fastest I have ever seen), blowing through a red light. If I hadn’t taught my son to stop at the bike lane he would be dead today. We couldn’t see the ebike coming b/c of parked cars and cars going through the intersection, which he bisected. This needs to stop, the police need to do their jobs, stand on the corners and confiscate ebikes and scooters who drive illegally on our streets, bikes lanes, sidewalks.

      • Josh says:

        An eBike or an electric motorcycle? Ebikes cant reach those speeds, but the electric motorcycles can. Revel’s are capped, but many others are not. And in bike lanes, people are constantly riding both electric and gasoline motorbikes and it definitely is very dangerous, even to bike riders.

    30. Dan says:

      Cyclists and electric vehicles of all kinds pay no attention to traffic regulations.

    31. John says:

      So given all this, we can safely say DeBlasio’s Vision Zero is a huge failure. Time to admit that the re-engineering of West End Ave. is also a failure. The whole thing needs to be removed and restored to its original state.