New York City bus operators signed a monumental legal agreement last week, clarifying the intent of Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial “Vision Zero” program. The program previously had led to the arrest of six members of the Transport Workers (TWU) union, all bus operators with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). John Samuelsen, TWU executive vice president and president of TWU Local 100, signed the agreement with New York City’s corporation counsel.
The agreement will protect bus operators from being charged criminally in pedestrian crosswalk accidents that are just accidents—not caused by driver recklessness. It settles a federal lawsuit that Local 100 filed against the city in April, challenging the legality of the “Right of Way” clause in the Vision Zero bill.
“This is a huge victory,” Samuelsen said. “Under this well-intentioned, but poorly crafted, law, bus operators were arrested and handcuffed like common criminals. This settlement safeguards all bus operators and other transit workers who drive MTA motor vehicles from arrest if involved in an accident lacking recklessness.”
"The [New York City] labor movement, through the central labor council, came together and made it very clear to our elected officials that workers needed protections under the right of way law," said Samuelsen.
In addition to the settlement, the city has affirmed that it’s instructing police officers who investigate crosswalk accidents to consider the very real possibility that a bus operator’s view was blocked by the side-view mirror, taking into account the well-documented blind spots on MTA buses. This also marks huge progress toward a fairer, safer set of laws for transit riders and operators in New York City.