After the New York State Senate failed to pass a bill to extend and expand New York City’s life-saving speed camera program in the summer of 2018, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson put forth remarkable initiative to broker an innovative solution between city and state leaders, renewing the camera program, and protecting countless lives. For his perseverance and ingenuity, Transportation Alternatives is pleased to present the first-ever Vision Zero Leader of the Year Award to Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Awards are an effort to recognize that Vision Zero is a tangible goal, not an empty marketing slogan. Recognition is given to an outstanding individual, agency, and a project.
“In 2018, we saw some truly life-saving Vision Zero efforts, from the remarkable redesign of Skillman and 43rd avenues in Queens, to Council Speaker Johnson’s bold refusal to give up on New York City’s speed camera program. We also saw too many dangerous distortions of the simple science of safe streets, where leaders treated Vision Zero as a marketing slogan, not a policy change,” said Ellen McDermott, Transportation Alternatives interim director. “To reach the goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries, New York City needs a blanket understanding that Vision Zero is about saving lives, and a universal agreement that every street redesign and policy decision should move toward that goal, or be moved off the table.”
TransAlt also recognized the New York City Department of Transportation as the Vision Zero Agency of the Year, and the redesign of Skillman and 43rd avenues in Queens as the Vision Zero Project of the Year.
Vision Zero Leader of the Year: Council Speaker Corey Johnson
At a recent press conference, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson made the work of Vision Zero plain: “The most deadly vehicles in New York City are trucks and buses and cars, and we need to break the car culture in New York City. We need to enable cyclists and pedestrians to be able to get around the city in a safe way.”
This is the voice of a real Vision Zero leader. For his courage and tenacity in the fight to save New York City’s speed camera program, and for his unwavering elucidation of the core issues to reaching Vision Zero, Corey Johnson is the 2018 Vision Zero Leader of the Year.
Vision Zero Agency of the Year: New York City Department of Transportation
Vision Zero is working thanks in no small part to the New York City Department of Transportation’s data-driven approach to saving lives. New York City is estimated to see the fewest total traffic fatalities not only in the Vision Zero era, but since at least 1910 (the year the City began collecting traffic fatality data).
In 2018, the New York City Department of Transportation built 21 miles of protected bike lane miles, the second-highest total installed in a single calendar year. Many of the lanes installed in 2018 were in locations where people on bikes are most vulnerable, as well as on streets where bicycle traffic is expected to skyrocket during the L Train shutdown. These traffic-calming, crash-reducing, life-saving additions to our streets are a critical component of Vision Zero. This track record is a product of a city agency which takes seriously the duty to protect New Yorkers, handily earning it the award for 2018 Vision Zero Agency of the Year.
Vision Zero Project of the Year: 43rd Avenue, Skillman Avenue Street Safety Improvement Project
The Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue corridor in Sunnyside, Queens is a Vision Zero Priority Area in which 283 people were injured between 2012 and 2016, including 61 pedestrians and 34 bicyclists. There were also two serious crashes involving bicyclists in 2017, one of which claimed the life of delivery cyclist Gelacio Reyes.
The plan to make the corridor safer involved not simply the installation of protected bike lanes, but a comprehensive redesign of about 2.5 miles of city streets: lanes were narrowed, new pedestrian islands shortened crossing distances by more than a third, and a seven-mile protected gap in the bike lane network between Forest Hills and Midtown Manhattan was filled.
The redesign project was approved by the local community board’s transportation committee, but failed to win support of the full board. This has been enough to stop projects from moving forward in the past, but Mayor de Blasio, to his credit, saw the merits of this project, and ordered the DOT to forge ahead. There were many street safety improvement projects worthy of recognition in 2018, but the redesign of Skillman and 43rd avenues is the only one which someone felt compelled to sabotage with thumbtacks.
Vision Zero Hall of Shame
In addition to the Vision Zero Awards, Transportation Alternatives is also announcing the inaugural class of the “Vision Zero Hall of Shame.”
Vision Zero Hall of Shame Inductees: NYS Senate Leader John Flanagan, Senator Simcha Felder, and Senator Marty Golden
Senator Simcha Felder
For a second year in a row, in 2018 Senator Felder single-handedly blocked state renewal and expansion of New York City’s life-saving speed camera program. By the summer of 2018, a bill to extend and expand the speed camera program had twice passed the Assembly and had won the bipartisan support of 35 State Senate sponsors, Governor Cuomo and a nearly unified New York City, including the mayor, City Council, NYPD, the school crossing guards union, and numerous hospitals, yeshivas and schools in every borough. But Senator Felder used his leverage in the NYS Senate to prevent the bill from advancing, and along the way attempted to trade his support for speed cameras for armed police officers in New York City schools. Shame on Senator Felder for refusing to listen, for refusing to meet with members of Families for Safe Streets, and for willingly endangering the lives of New Yorkers. For that, Senator Simcha Felder is the first inductee in the Vision Zero Hall of Shame.
Senator Marty Golden
Senator Marty Golden has personally endangered the lives of his own constituents on numerous occasions while driving. Since 2014 his car racked up at least 14 tickets for speeding in school zones, putting him in the top three percent of speeding recidivists in New York City. Golden also impersonated a police officer while having his chauffeur drive his car in a protected bicycle lane. And in 2005, after having struck a woman with his car, who later died in the hospital, he shamefully suggested that the elderly woman would have died anyway from cancer. Based on his past, Senator Golden should have led the way to protect his own constituents and all New Yorkers. In 2018 the Senator had a golden opportunity to help right his wrongs, but he failed. It was he who negotiated a compromise bill drastically reducing from 750 to 290 the number of school zones that would be protected by speed cameras, claiming that such compromise is what his GOP conference could accept. But Senator Golden’s failure to stand up to Senator Felder ensured that the Senate never voted on even the compromise bill. And in the final days of session, Senator Golden co-sponsored and promoted a bill that would have ended the speed camera program entirely. For these actions there is no excuse, and it earns Senator Golden a well-deserved place in the Vision Zero Hall of Shame.
NYS Senate Leader John Flanagan
As leader of the NYS Senate, Senator John Flanagan could have brought the speed camera bill to the floor for a vote. But instead, he sought to court the favor of Senator Felder at the expense of the safety of one million New York City schoolchildren. Flanagan had the opportunity to be the adult in the room. He failed to seize that opportunity and in doing so, failed as a leader. For this failure of leadership, Transportation Alternatives inducts Senator Flanagan into the Vision Zero Hall of Shame.
Vision Zero Hall of Shame Inductee: New York City Police Department
The NYPD has mis-labeled numerous efforts with the Vision Zero brand, but none is more shameful and wrongheaded than the targeting of low-income, largely immigrant delivery workers for their use of e-bikes. The e-bike crackdown, which has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, represented a huge step backwards for Vision Zero in 2018. Compared to a massive death toll caused by car drivers, which are responsible for more than 5,500 deaths on New York City streets since 2000, an e-bike rider has never killed someone in the five boroughs. Despite the fact that the NYPD has no data to support this crackdown, the department has branded it a “Vision Zero” effort. The NYPD shifted limited resources from addressing chronic under-enforcement against dangerous driving and the known lethal risk of cars, to targeting food delivery workers which are not the cause of lives lost. For its deeply biased enforcement efforts against low-income, often vulnerable immigrant New Yorkers, the NYPD has been inducted into the 2018 Vision Zero Hall of Shame.
Vision Zero Hall of Shame Inductee: Dyckman Street
Vision Zero requires a commitment to safe streets, even in the face of opposition. But less than a year after protected bike lanes were installed on Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan, the street was repaved, and the lanes have not returned. Now, where there was once a safe route for New Yorkers to travel by bike between the greenways along the Hudson River and the Harlem River, there is rampant double parking. This is what happens when local officials fail to muster the political will to stand up for the safe streets. This is what happens when a car-owning minority -- only 23 percent of Manhattan households own a vehicle -- and illegal double parking are prioritized over the safe movement of pedestrians and people on bikes. For these reasons, Dyckman Street has been inducted into the 2018 Vision Zero Hall of Shame.