NYC bus drivers don’t want to be responsible for killing pedestrians, protest by driving carefully?

Bus making a turn
CC BY 2.0 Flickr user Ken

In 2014, 144 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in New York City. According to data compiled by WNYC, at least five of those deaths involved an MTA bus.

One of those victims was Marisol Martinez, a nursing student at Hunter College. She was killed at the age of 21, after visiting family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She was hit by the Q59 bus as it turned left onto Meeker Avenue.

Every single pedestrian death is a tragedy, as New York City’s Vision Zero campaign recognizes. And while many of its changes, like new road designs and better bike lanes are being welcomed by pedestrian and bike advocates, a number of Vision Zero policies have been met with controversy.

One of those policies is the enforcement of a law that criminalizes drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians who are hit in a crosswalk. But the bus driver’s union, TWU Local 100, wants an exemption of this law for its members.

Yesterday, several drivers in uptown Manhattan and the Bronx protested Zero Vision. The drivers followed the letter of the law exactly, waiting until all pedestrians had completely left the crosswalks.

They also handed out a cartoon depicting Mayor Bill DeBlasio arresting a black female bus driver with the message “Do not turn unless the intersection is clear!” Under the Vision Zero, six bus drivers have been arrested for hitting pedestrians, with five cases involving deaths and one case involving an injury.

The protest meant a slower bus ride for many riders and held up traffic for other drivers. “This is horrible,” one bus rider told The New York Post. “Now everyone on this bus is late because they want to protest.”

But shouldn’t bus operators drive carefully all the time? Gothamist asked union spokesman Pete Donahue this very question.

"Common sense would dictate that you should not give a bus a green light to make a left turn onto a street and, at the same time, give pedestrians the 'walk' signal to cross that same street," Donahue replied. Instead, he said bus drivers should be given left-turn only signals, while at the same time giving pedestrians a signal not to cross.

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