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Help Uncover the Truth About Traffic Violence

Streetsblog: Help Uncover the Truth About Traffic Violence

by Lily Bernheimer on November 13, 2009

Want to channel your anger over pedestrian and cyclist crashes into productive action? Livable Streets member BicyclesOnly has a plan for you.

The police report revealed that the driver who killed cyclist Rasha Shamoon in 2008 had six prior convictions, and that NYPD interviewed only him and his passengers.

BicyclesOnly has launched a working group for Traffic Justice FOIL Requests. Like the federal government and most other states, New York’s Freedom of Information Law requires state and municipal agencies to make a wide range of internal documents and information publicly available upon request. BicyclesOnly’s Freedom of Information Requests for Traffic Justice StreetsWiki article is an easy how-to for the whole process. He explained to us why FOIL requests are so crucial:
While police declare most crashes to be "accidents" within hours, the details that bear on responsibility for the crash are usually kept from the public for months. By that time, most journalists and their readers have lost interest. The crash will forever be an "accident." But the detailed information from FOIL requests makes it possible to show that many "accidents" have real and preventable causes, and that police, prosecutors and traffic engineers are failing in their responsibility to address those causes.

He pointed out that Charles Komanoff’s seminal work on traffic justice, "Killed by Automobile," would have been impossible without data obtained in this manner. For more information on FOIL requests, follow this link to a video featuring Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government (Windows Media Player required).

The FOIL requests group is a place for people to gather information about crashes, track the progress of requests, and use this information in campaign work, like this letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. Says BicyclesOnly: "Any Streetsblog reader can help foster balanced, meaningful coverage of traffic deaths by devoting two hours and $5 or so to making a FOIL crash request."