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Release the Tapes!

March 3, 2011

This video isn’t news anymore, but it’s a real Rorschach test for anyone who watches it.  Is all of that traffic a new and dangerous development caused by the bike lane or is the bike lane the only thing that allows the ambulance to get around the kind of traffic you see all over New York every day?

I first recall the subject of video coming up at the December CB6 meeting and then again at January’s DOT presentation, but it actually goes back to at least November 7, 2010, when, according to NBBL’s own report [PDF], they began a “verifiable 12-day video surveillance…from the window of a dwelling on PPW near Grand Army Plaza.”  (14 Prospect Park West.)  That means that they’ve been recording the activity on the street, sidewalk, and bike lane on this stretch of PPW for almost four months, sometimes for twelve hours a day. So how much video has NBBL released so far?

Seventeen seconds.

In their report the group claims that “pedestrian and vehicular safety has in fact decreased,” and that since the lane opened in June there’s been a slight uptick in bike and car accidents compared with rates for previous years.  If accidents and traffic jams are happening with the frequency NBBL claims, why hasn’t the group released any more video?

There are two possibilities:

  1. NBBL is holding back the really damning stuff for a potential lawsuit or for another TV and newspaper story.
  2. This is all they have.

I’m inclined to think number 2 is the answer, but let’s say it’s not.  If there is something really terrible on those tapes–a cyclist injuring a pedestrian, a driver swerving to avoid an open car door on the newly narrowed PPW, etc.–I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to release it publicly.  If NBBL has video that could help remove what they believe is the true cause of danger in the neighborhood, and get that danger removed sooner rather than later, I believe they have a moral obligation to release whatever footage they have in order to make their case.

I don’t know when the next hearing on this subject will be, and lord knows we’ve had enough of them, but when it happens I hope everyone encourages NBBL to be the good neighbors they claim to be and release the videos for public viewing.

  1. March 3, 2011 10:01 am

    My theory:

    The vast majority of the NBBL footage being shot from the third floor window of 14 Prospect Park West (that’s the mansion with the SUV in the driveway with the 14PPW vanity plate) shows motor vehicle traffic flowing smoothly and a relatively high number of cyclists using a bike path on cold, mostly un-plowed winter days.

    Unlike Park Slope Neighbors, which made the raw data from its radar speed gun study data available to anyone, NBBL will never release its raw data.

    Trying to get raw traffic data out of Iris Weinshall’s DOT back in the day was like trying to get prisoners out of a Stalinist gulag. That’s who these people are. That’s how they operate.

  2. March 3, 2011 10:03 am

    Much more likely option is #3, the held-back vid contains stuff that cuts both ways, showing cyclists and pedestrians negotiating right-of-way reasonably and effectively, so they are trying to hide it. One thing PSN or a similar group could do is file a declaratory judgment action based on the threatened lawsuits, and use that as a vehicle to obtain a court order demanding preservation of the videotapte before it “disappears.”

  3. March 3, 2011 10:13 am

    I held back on writing about option #3 in order to see how fast it would be before someone mentioned it. So you both win! Thanks for your smart responses.

  4. Jonathan R permalink
    March 3, 2011 12:49 pm

    Just my opinion here. I think NBBL is hoping to get footage of an honest-to-goodness “10-53 with injuries” motor vehicle crash, where patients are taken to the hospital. Once they put that on broadcast television through the good advices of their stooge reporter, they will blame the crash on the bike lane, saying “see, we told you it was dangerous.”

  5. March 3, 2011 1:28 pm

    Any reasonable person will admit that the new design can’t prevent all accidents, only that it makes accidents less likely to occur and less severe when they do. So Jonathan, exactly what you’re saying is not out of the realm of possibility at all. Also possible is that the tapes will capture a cyclist hitting a pedestrian in the bike lane, which in some ways will be even worse than a 100-car pile-up at Grand Army Plaza in terms of PR. Even if it’s not the cyclist’s fault, we’ll all be in for it when or if that video is played on a TV network. Nuance is not the tabloids’ or local news’ strong suit.

  6. March 11, 2011 7:19 pm

    One more reason to release the tapes — maybe we can blow up this footage so the license plates can be read, and the drivers charged with violating NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1144:

    “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle equipped with at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of five hundred feet to the front of such vehicle other than a police vehicle or bicycle when operated as an authorized emergency vehicle, and when audible signals are sounded from any said vehicle by siren, exhaust whistle, bell, air-horn or electronic equivalent; the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway….”

    Seems like about three of those selfish, lawbreaking drivers, who committed the truly dangerous act in that scene, could’ve pulled up next to the fire hydrant. Where’s the outrage?

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