Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 12) In New York, no one really obeys traffic laws. Cars roll right through red lights (it was yellow when I first saw it, honestly!), pedestrians step off the curb well before they have the green signal, and even the more law-abiding cyclists routinely go through red lights if there's no oncoming traffic. Bus and bike lanes are routinely loosely regarded, and even in strict "don't block the box" grids cars can't help but inch forward.
In London, more people follow traffic laws. You can ascribe that to the British vs. New York temperament, but at least some transportation watchers say it also has to do with London's network of cameras, so that people are basically watched everywhere, intersections included.
On Tuesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to London to observe their network of security cameras. But back at home, his DOT is lobbying for two new bills, one that would allow the city to add about 40 speed enforcement cameras, and one that would allow cameras to enforce bus lanes. Motorists HATE enforcement cameras, and if you google "red light camera" you'll find a battery of lawyers ready to help you fight your ticket.
But camera advocates like Transportation Alternatives argue that speeding is the number one killer on New York City roads, according to the DMV . They point to a study showing when speeding enforcement cameras came to Washington, DC, speeding dropped dramatically.
As for bus lane enforcement -- it's key to New York City's plans to have a workable bus rapid transit system.
But both bills have faced some hostility from Assembly Transportation Chair David Gantt (D-Rochester), who resisted for years before allowing red light enforcement cameras at 150 intersections in New York City (out of 12,000 with lights). Assembly members Deborah Glick and Martin Malave Dilan have put "99"s on their camera bills, meaning they'll get to committee, but both bills have steep climbs ahead.
Despite Mayor Bloomberg's warm and fuzzy feelings for cameras, everywhere.