While battling the pandemics of COVID-19 and gun violence, New York City finds itself at war with a different scourge — fatal traffic incidents.
The Five Boroughs continue to be on pace for the deadliest year on its streets since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, as more people have been killed on the city’s streets during the first six months of 2021 than during any previous first half of the year under the current administration, according to a new study.
Through June 30, 2021, 124 New Yorkers were killed in fatal crashes, including 64 pedestrians, 52 motorists, and eight cyclists, according to a sobering analysis by safe streets advocates Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, shattering records for Hizzoner’s seven-year tenure and raising doubts about the success of the lame duck mayor’s pledge to reduce traffic violence under his signature Vision Zero initiative.
“More people are dying on Mayor de Blasio’s streets because he failed to quickly and aggressively scale the safety solutions of Vision Zero that he knows work, instead choosing to deliver piecemeal projects and unfulfilled promises,” said Transportation Alternatives executive director Danny Harris in a statement July 20.
More than 1,700 people were killed by drivers since mayor de Blasio took office in 2014 and launched Vision Zero that same year. Fatalities declined from mid-2016 to late 2018, but increased again in 2019 and soared after the pandemic outbreak, according to the analysis.
Just this past weekend there was carnage on the roads across the Five Boroughs, starting with a sports car driver who plowed into a Long Island Rail Road track pillar in Brooklyn Saturday, a driver fatally hitting a man lying in a Queens crosswalk Sunday morning, and an allegedly intoxicated motorist hit a Citi Bike rider in Manhattan later that morning.
Early Monday morning, a speeding driver died after he flipped his car on the Harlem River Drive.
Mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz referred a request for comment to a more than two-week-old interview de Blasio did with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, when the mayor compared the rash in traffic deaths to the increase in gun violence, and chalked it up COVID encouraging more people to drive and avoid public transit.
“COVID unglued everything. COVID was the perfect storm that led to a huge uptick in gun violence around the country. It also led to an uptick in car usage and speeding around the country and that we’ve seen a really horrible trends since COVID began with these crashes and deaths,” de Blasio said on July 2.
The mayor told the radio host he pinned his hopes on reversing the trend by implementing congestion pricing, something the state controls, and the vague effort to get “mass transit back.”
But advocates said there’s plenty the mayor can do through the city. He can adopt recommendations provided by his own Surface Transportation Advisory Council a year ago, such as building out more busways, bike lanes, and high-occupancy-vehicle lane restrictions into Manhattan’s central business district.
De Blasio should also direct his Department of Transportation to repurpose more free curbside parking for things like deliveries, pick ups and drop offs, and expanded sidewalks, the report recommended.
Schwartz noted the administration has installed a record number of bus lanes and protected bike lanes last year.
He also pointed to the city’s Open Streets program, the administration’s moves to reduce speed limits on 45 miles of dangerous corridors, scaling up the city’s speed camera program, and committing $39 million to redesign Brooklyn’s deadly McGuinness Boulevard.