NYC hasn’t reached zero yet.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic deaths is working, and worth applause. Deaths on city streets fell from 299 in 2013 to 214 last year, a 28 percent drop and a record low. Within that data, pedestrian fatalities across NYC dropped from 184 to 101, a 45 percent decrease. While detractors can grumble about City Hall’s choices, like lowering the speed limit, creating more medians and pedestrian plazas, and adding bike lanes, they can’t deny this: It’s far safer to walk across city streets now than it was four years ago.
Tragedy spurred the initial Vision Zero push, after drivers hit and killed seven pedestrians, including a 9-year-old boy, in the first two weeks of de Blasio’s first term.
Keep up the urgency. It’s up to de Blasio to replicate successes like Queens Boulevard — the “Boulevard of Death” hasn’t had a pedestrian fatality since 2014. Emphasize enforcement, and work with communities on more extensive changes to make streets safer. City Council representatives should reach out to their constituents to explain why traffic safety improvements, including bike lanes, wider medians, and pedestrian plazas are needed.
City Hall has to pay particular attention to cyclist safety. Cycling deaths increased from 12 in 2013 to 23 last year. City officials said bicycle ridership increased significantly in that period, but the death toll is still unacceptable. NYC should focus on adding protected bike lanes where reasonable, enforcing traffic rules for drivers and cyclists, and addressing trouble spots where cycling deaths occur.
Also, the State Legislature should allow the city to install more speed cameras near schools. The State Senate has wrongly blocked the effort in the past. Most absurdly, one of the chief opponents has been Brooklyn Sen. Martin Golden, accused last month of impersonating a police officer while being driven in a car reportedly associated with as many as 30 traffic violations, including school zone speeding tickets.
Vision Zero’s success is laudable. But it’s not called Vision 214. More should be done so adults and children can cross streets or bicycle safely.
The city must always strive for zero.