2021 on track to be deadliest since de Blasio launched Vision Zero: advocates

A cyclist near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.
Photo by Mark Hallum

April has been the deadliest for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike since Vision Zero began in 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives — spelling pain for the city’s prospects of reducing deaths on roadways for what could be the third year in a row.

The nonprofit street advocate group said on Tuesday that 2021 is on pace to be second worst year on record since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office and promised to bring justice in the form of safe street redesigns. New York City is currently rivaling 2019 and 2020 this year, both of which saw heavy casualties.

“For the third year in a row, traffic violence is increasing because of Mayor de Blasio’s inaction,” Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “Since Mayor de Blasio took office, more than 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed on his streets – despite the City having both data about where crashes occur and the proven tools to address traffic violence.”

According to Transportation Alternatives, up to 70 New Yorkers have died in incidents of what they see as traffic violence rather than crashes. Despite the launch of Vision Zero as well as the buildout of bike lane networks throughout the five boroughs, Harris believes de Blasio continues to give motorists the right of way in terms of policy.

“By withholding these tools, especially to communities most in need, Mayor de Blasio continues to prioritize the convenience of drivers over protecting human life,” Harris said. “In his remaining time in office, he must put people, not cars, first on our streets, especially as New York City reopens.”

With 70 people killed so far this year, it is looking a lot like 2014 when the same figure reached 72. The pedestrian death toll is higher than when the mayor took office, at 43 fatalities, according to Transportation Alternatives.

At the end of 2020, the city Department of Transportation announced that there was officially 1,375 bike lane miles, with over 500 of them being protected. But that hasn’t seemed to stop the bloodshed for the majority of New Yorkers who do not own cars.

In 2019, 29 cyclists died by the turn of the decade and in 2020, or 208 roadway deaths total. For 2020, about 234 people died on New York City streets

Transportation Alternatives puts the count at about 1,000 deceased cyclists and pedestrians since de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan was launched, much of it under the leadership of former city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg who vacated her position in late 2020 for a top role in the Biden administration’s transportation department.

The organization is pushing the mayor to finish redesigns on Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard in Queens, the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn, many of which have been stalled. They also ask that he heed the recommendations of his own Surface Transportation Advisory Council.

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