Vision Zero Might Not Be Working, As Traffic Deaths Continue to Rise
October 17, 2019 | Finz & Finz, P.C.
For the first time since Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his signature “Vision Zero” safety program at the beginning of 2014, traffic-related fatalities in New York City are on the rise. Designed to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2024 through a series of policy changes, the program seemed to be paying off despite a rise in the total number of traffic incidents. But that appears to be changing in 2019, as the city has been rocked by a series of high-profile tragedies — and many are laying the blame at de Blasio’s doorstep.
Bicycle-related fatalities have been a particular point of focus, as the overall number of such incidents has skyrocketed this year. By the middle of August, 19 cyclists had been killed on New York streets, including eight since June. That number is up from just 10 in all of 2018, and has grown so high that many in the biking community have taken to calling it simply “the crisis.” According to an NPR report, researchers suggest that bicyclists remain at particular risk in New York, because Vision Zero does not implement the single policy change most responsible for a decrease in cyclist fatalities: a city-wide system of dedicated bike lanes, with as many as possible completely separated from car lanes.
Another cause for the rise in cycling-related fatalities may be found in a separate policy failure: unreliable subway service. Between 2006 and 2015, the number of total bicycle trips made in the city ballooned from 66 million to 164 million, as more New Yorkers took to the pedals to avoid long MTA wait times.
At the same time as biking fatalities have been on the rise, there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving children. Two children died in September as a result of pedestrian collisions, including a baby in the Bronx who was struck when a driver jumped the curb and hit her stroller.
“This crash represents a chance for Mayor de Blasio to demonstrate real Vision Zero leadership: Go to the scene of the crash, stand with the child’s family, and tell New Yorkers that he will do whatever it takes, right now and for the remainder of his time in office, to bring an end to the carnage,” the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said in a statement following the baby’s death.
Unveiled early in de Blasio’s first term, Vision Zero was inspired by a similar program pioneered in Sweden and seeks to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024 through a combination of reduced speed limits, stricter enforcement of traffic violations, faster repair of broken traffic signals, and other changes to existing traffic law.
As of October 16, 2019, the NYPD’s official count of fatalities stood at 172, up 13.9% over last year’s total at the same date. If this trend holds, year-over-year traffic fatalities in New York will rise for the first time since Vision Zero was announced.
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