In a renewed traffic safety push, the city will seek to redesign 1,000 intersections across the five boroughs and beef up NYPD enforcement of failure-to-yield violations, Mayor Eric Adams announced in Brooklyn Wednesday.
The Department of Transportation is also implementing a new rule Wednesday requiring drivers and cyclists to stop, rather than yield, for crossing pedestrians at intersections without traffic lights or stop signs; the Police Department will also be tasked with enforcing that rule. The city will launch a public relations campaign under the tagline “Stop, Let Them Cross” to inform drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians of the new rule.
“The rules that were in place in previous generations are no longer applicable to now, when we have busy streets with scooters, skateboarders, all sorts of moving on our streets. It’s more than just vehicles,” the mayor said at a Wednesday morning press conference in Windsor Terrace announcing the new initiative. “Our goal is to be clear: people must learn the rules of the road, or get off the road,”
Last year, 2021, was the deadliest on the city’s streets since the implementation of Vision Zero; 250 people died on the city’s roadways in the first eleven months of last year, the most since 2014, according to the city’s Vision Zero dashboard. Thousands more were injured at intersections across the five boroughs.
The new year has not gotten off to a much better start: 15-year-old Antoninia Zatulovska was killed in Sheepshead Bay Monday after being run over by a school bus, the driver of which fled the scene before being arrested. In Bedford Stuyvesant, a 77-year-old woman was left in critical condition last Friday after an SUV driver on Gates Avenue, near Marcus Garvey Boulevard, smashed into two parked cars and then jumped the curb.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio made “Vision Zero” one of his administration’s signature initiatives, and while his mayoralty did see many major street redesigns, he was often criticized for not going far enough and approaching the issue from a “windshield perspective.” In contrast, the new mayor says he wants to approach traffic violence through the same lens as gun violence or other forms of disorder; in other words, as a matter of public safety.
“The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice,” Adams said, utilizing a frequent campaign-trail line. “That public safety also includes traffic safety. You don’t distinguish between the loss of a loved one through any form of violence. And traffic safety is a clear form of violence that has been ignored far too long.”
The initiative will focus specifically on intersections, where the mayor said 55% of pedestrian deaths and 79% of pedestrian injuries occur.
“We are determined to declare intersections as a sacred space and a protected space in the City of New York,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “This is where…pedestrians and cyclists are losing their lives.”
As part of the effort to make 1,000 intersections safer, the city will install turn signal traffic lights and “head-start” signals allowing pedestrians to cross before vehicles can turn; work will focus on intersections identified in last year’s streets master plan as particularly dangerous and deadly.
This year, the DOT will also install raise 100 crosswalks (essentially creating a speed bump of sorts where most people cross the street), add 100 new bike corrals, and add “turn calming” infrastructure to 100 intersections, intended to slow down turning drivers, Rodriguez said.
“We know drivers take turns more slowly and deliberately when physical elements force them to turn at a more appropriate speed,” Rodriguez said.
Asked for examples of streets that would see improvements this year, Rodriguez referred amNewYork to the DOT’s press shop, which did not proffer a formal list but noted that it’s looking at previously-identified dangerous intersections. That could include the intersection the presser took place at: Coney Island and Caton Avenues in Brooklyn.
There, DOT could potentially install new infrastructure designed to discourage drivers from cutting through two gas stations to try to beat traffic lights. The mayor said that 26 people have been injured just at that intersection in the past five years.
The new requirement for drivers and cyclists to stop, rather than yield, for pedestrians at non-signaled intersections went into effect Wednesday. Rodriguez said that the penalty is a $50 fine; asked whether it could lead to the NYPD increasingly targeting cyclists, the commissioner said that a dragnet on bikers is not the intent.
“I don’t see right now that this rule that is in effect today will be doing anything more than protecting the pedestrians,” said Rodriguez, the former upper Manhattan Councilmember. “But anything that relates to cyclists being targeted, we will be working with the cyclist community.”
As for enforcement, Rodriguez said New Yorkers can rest assured that under the new mayor, NYPD officers will take failure-to-yield violations and other traffic infractions more seriously than they did under de Blasio. Last year, at a press conference on traffic safety held by then-Mayor-elect Adams, a driver sped through two red lights directly past both Adams and several NYPD officers, drawing rebuke from activists in attendance.
“I can tell you I was at [1 Police Plaza] last week, when I saw the leadership of the NYPD meeting with all the inspectors giving instructions about the work they have to do to be sure that we improve lack of safety in New York City,” Rodriguez told reporters. The mayor’s office says it plans to double enforcement of failure-to-yield violations this year.
“It’s a new day in the City of New York,” Rodriguez said. “Mayor Adams’ leadership when it comes to lack of safety in our city, including our streets, is something that he’s taking seriously.”