Municipal vehicles in New York City getting safer, greener

NYC municipal vechicles are set to become greener and safer.
NYC municipal vechicles are set to become greener and safer. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Matt Winkelmeyer

The city is taking a step forward to make its thousands of municipal vehicles safer and more environmentally friendly.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Lisette Camilo, Comissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, will announce Thursday the successful installation of protective side guards on city trucks; new electric vehicles, increased use of biodiesel fuel and new hands-free mobile restrictions for city workers.

The upgrades to the city’s fleet of 28,000 municipal vehicles fall under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero and NYC Clean Fleet initiatives.

“Once again New York City is leading by example, this time introducing cutting-edge measures to boost safety and sustainability for the largest fleet in the nation,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “These progressive requirements will ensure that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike will be safer on our streets, all while decreasing the city’s carbon emissions footprint.”

As of Thursday, NYC Fleet has installed 370 side guards on city vehicles, like Sanitation, pickup and box trucks, to protect cyclists and pedestrians from falling underneath during collisions. It aims to install a total of 650 truck guards by summer 2017. With guards in place, the fatality rate for cyclists and pedestrians colliding into sides of trucks drops by 61 percent and 20 percent, respectively, according to a DCAS study from 2014.

The city will also ban municipal drivers from using of hands-free phone devices, except for emergency vehicles. While state law allows for New Yorkers to use the technology, DCAS said national research has proven that hands-free driving is just as distracting as operating non-hands-free devices.

As for green initiatives, the city expects its first order of 185 electric vehicles to be delivered by June 30. Under NYC Clean Fleet, the city pledges to implement at least 2,000 electric cars and to reduce fleet emissions by 50 percent by 2025.

Excluding emergency service units, in fiscal year 2017, the city will only purchase plug-in electric vehicles. But the Police Department is making some headway—the department cars has doubled its biodiesel use from five percent to 10 percent biodiesel blends. (All city vehicles currently either use five percent or 20 percent biodiesel blends.)

“This is a perfect example of safety and efficiency going hand in hand,” said Council Member and Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement. “We have to keep looking for innovative ways to cut down on emissions and electric vehicles are an impactful part of this mission. At the same time, keeping our city drivers focused on the road rather than their calls, will keep all who use our streets safer.”