The men and women of New York's transit workers union are inheriting the worst impulses of their friends at the NYPD. After a city bus driver was arrested last week for running over a 15-year-old girl in a crosswalk—delivering injuries so serious that she may lose her leg—the union complained that the city was treating bus drivers like "criminals." In this case, that's because one of them committed a violent crime.
Jiahuan Xu had a walk signal when she crossed Grand Street in Williamsburg last week and was struck by a Q59 bus turning left from Union Avenue. Francisco DeJesus, the driver, had a green light, but was required by law to yield to pedestrians. He didn't, and Xu was left pinned under the bus's wheel, wondering about the fate of her leg.
In other words, DeJesus clearly broke the law, and was arrested rightfully. The New York Times reports that DeJesus was at least the third bus driver to be arrested under a new law that makes failure to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way a misdemeanor punishable up to 30 days in jail or a $250 fine if the pedestrians are injured or killed.
But according to the Transport Workers Union Local 100, the incident was a grave injustice. A memo from TWU 100 president John Samuelsen echoes the puerile rhetoric the police union used when calling for the unofficial NYPD slowdown: If you want us to be more careful, we'll be more careful—even if that means doing our jobs poorly.
Now we must respond appropriately, recognizing that we are being disgracefully and unfairly scapegoated and targeted. It is imperative that we immediately move to defend our livelihoods and protect ourselves against these attacks. Therefore, we MUST Yield/Stop "when a pedestrian or bicyclist has the right of way." If there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, Yield/Stop your bus until they are on the sidewalk. We must exercise extreme caution at intersections and on roadways.
Do not move your bus until all is clear. It you do not make your schedule, so be it.
But in a city that's plagued by traffic violence, Samuelsen's threat sounds more like a well-intentioned promise. If the union's idea of retribution—like the NYPD's—is to be more careful with the responsibility it has been given to protect the lives of New Yorkers, that's great. Please, continue slowing down.
[Image via AP]