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Chelsea Now – Steps to Safer Streets Sought After Deaths of Chelsea Cyclists

July 19, 2017

BY JACKSON CHEN | At a July 17 stakeholders meeting convened in response to a pair of Chelsea-based fatalities involving cyclists hit by charter buses, the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a list of preventative measures.

On June 17, Michael Mamoukakis, 80, was traveling down Seventh Ave. when a charter bus making a right turn on W. 29th St. struck him, police said. Mamoukakis’ death was less than a week following an incident where Dan Hanegby, a 36-year-old investment banker from Brooklyn, collided with a charter bus on W. 26th St. (btw. Eighth & Seventh Aves.) after swerving to avoid a parked van on June 12, according to police. The similar nature and proximity of the two deaths led to Councilmember Corey Johnson calling for an emergency meeting with the DOT, NYPD, other electeds, Community Board 4 (CB4), and bus companies immediately following Mamoukakis’ death.

The group, which excluded the bus companies, met on Monday to discuss possible next steps to improve safety and mitigate present dangers. According to a DOT spokesperson, the agency was looking at possibilities for more protected crosstown bike lanes. Additionally, the DOT is looking for ways to better communicate the city’s designated truck routes to bus companies and drivers, including meetings and training with the company representatives.

In terms of punitive measures, the DOT noted increased use of warning letters, a stricter process for bus stop permit renewals, and working with the NYPD for more thorough enforcement on buses traveling outside of designated truck routes, according to Johnson’s office.

The councilmember said the morning meeting was productive as both the DOT and stakeholders were prepared with solid ideas towards increased safety.

“Convening this step of stakeholders is a crucial step in helping ensure that our streets are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is literally a life or death issue.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who attended the meeting, said far too many pedestrians and cyclists were being injured and killed by buses and trucks on streets they don’t belong.

“DOT and NYPD are right to step up their enforcement of truck and bus route regulations and educating and warning bus and truck drivers to obey the law, or pay the consequences,” Gottfried said.

Christine Berthet, a CB4 member and attendee at the stakeholders meeting, said there were a lot of ideas exchanged, but it would ultimately come down to implementation. CB4 has been aware of the hectic situation with the charter buses using non-truck-routes and has already brought up many of the possible solutions mentioned.

But on top of protected crosstown bike lanes and better enforcement, Berthet mentioned the idea of permit revocation for certain reckless drivers and their companies.

“If proven that the behavior of the buses was responsible for death, we’d like the permit to be taken away from the bus companies,” Berthet said.

As for future incidents, the CB4 member recommended that the NYPD not speak about the incidents until the investigation was more complete to avoid misinformation.

While the bus companies were not involved in the July 17 meeting, Johnson’s office is working on scheduling the next meeting to include those stakeholders.