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City struggles to address safety concerns posed by buses

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, on a weekly basis, an estimated 2.5 million passengers travel upon New York City’s more than 5,700 buses. With some 15,000 bus stops throughout the city’s five boroughs, there’s no doubt that buses are an integral part of the city’s transportation system.

Despite their utility in moving millions of people throughout the city, buses also pose serious safety threats to pedestrians and bicyclists. As the city continues to progress in its plans to eliminate traffic deaths via the Vision Zero Action Plan, concerns about bus safety have come to light.

Combined; commercial vehicles, taxi cabs and buses account for approximately 20 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents in the city. From the vantage of a bus driver, pedestrians and bicyclists are often difficult to see. This is often especially true in cases where a bus driver is turning right and fails to see a pedestrian in a crosswalk or a bicyclist in the far right traffic or bike lane.

The injuries and deaths of several pedestrians by buses prompted city lawmakers to pass legislation making it “a criminal misdemeanor to kill or injure a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way.” However, under mounting pressure by the bus drivers union, state lawmakers took action to provide exemptions in most cases.

More recently, the city announced it is starting a 60-day pilot program aimed to prevent buses from colliding with pedestrians and other motor vehicles. Using warning speakers and a system of sensors, buses will alert pedestrians of an approaching turn and provide bus drivers with alerts when other vehicles are present.

Source: NYU News, “MTA experiments with new tech to prevent bus crashes,” Thomas Peracchio, Oct. 6, 2015

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