Is NYC’s Vision Zero Program Reducing Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents as Planned?

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The announcement of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program in 2014 gained attention across the city and continues to be a topic of discussion as the plan moves forward. The goal of Vision Zero is to completely eliminate traffic accident fatalities by the year 2024. While the number of deaths decreased in the mayor’s first two years in office, statistics show those numbers are up again in 2016, something of great concern to the motorist, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

In order to end traffic accident fatalities in New York City, the Vision Zero plan incorporates speed reduction (including increased enforcement and penalties for violators) along with changes to road design to better accommodate pedestrians and bicycles. The concept was first used in Sweden in the late 1990s. The main focus and principles of Vision Zero are as follows:

  • Human life takes priority over the roads and traffic system, and safety should be the primary concern
  • Injuries and fatalities of any kind on city streets are unacceptable and completely avoidable
  • Those who create and regulate roads share in the responsibility to keep people safe
  • Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists should not only expect the roads to be safe but make a conscious decision to accomplish this goal through their actions

According to the Vision Zero Action Plan, more than 250 New Yorkers are killed and another 4000 suffer serious injuries every year from traffic accidents. While 2014 and 2015 saw these number go down, there has been an alarming upswing in pedestrian and especially bicycle accidents. The number of deaths from bicycle accidents through August has already exceeded the total number of fatalities for all of last year. This rise in numbers coincides with the expansion of protected bike lanes, and safety features for pedestrians including additional crosswalks, extended time to cross major thoroughfares and more room to accommodate the growing number of commuters on foot.

Some people believe the regression is due to a lack of enforcement from police officers. As part of Vision Zero, the city speed limit was lowered to 25 mph and there was to be a crackdown on drivers for failing to yield, making improper turns and distracted driving, especially involving cell phone use.

Over the last few years, versions of Vision Zero have been put into place not only in New York but in cities throughout the country including Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco, Portland, and Washington, D.C. While it is a noble concept, it remains to be seen if a total elimination of deadly traffic accidents on city streets can become a reality. In the interim, commuters need to take all precautions necessary to stay safe. If you or someone in your family has been injured in an accident due to the actions of an irresponsible driver, please call the skilled and experienced lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C., to get the compensation you deserve due to someone else’s negligence.