Vision Zero in New York City: Year Two


In 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed the City of New York to a 10-year goal of Vision Zero – eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024. Transportation Alternatives' platform for Vision Zero: Year Two presents four recommendations to reduce the number of New Yorkers being killed and injured in traffic:
2014 marks the formation of Vision Zero Now, a coalition of individuals, community organizations and businesses that seek an end tok traffic violence on New York City streets. Join the coalition.


Introduction

In the fight to make New York City’s streets safe, 2014 was a landmark year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio committed the City to a Vision Zero policy, with a goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries in 10 years. 2014 began with the formation of Families for Safe Streets, New York’s first-ever group of crash survivors and families whose loved ones have been killed in traffic. In the spring, Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives activists joined Mayor de Blasio, the City Council and Albany lawmakers to win a safer 25 mph default speed limit for New York City.

But the sweep of the year’s Vision Zero accomplishments did not stop there. On Friday, November 14th, Transportation Alternatives hosted the Vision Zero for Cities Symposium, a first-of-its-kind gathering of more than 300 policymakers and experts in traffic enforcement, public health and engineering from around the nation and the world. After a day of education, information-sharing and debate, the Vision Zero for Cities Symposium coalesced around a set of “Vision Zero Principles” to inform New York City’s efforts in Year Two of the push to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Despite immense progress in 2014, at least 259 people are known to be killed on New York City’s streets last year, with more than 51,000 people injured1.Vision Zero cannot be achieved without a greater dedication of resources, political capital and interagency coordination, from every echelon of City and State government.

To reach Vision Zero, New York City must achieve steeper reductions in traffic fatalities and serious injuries each year. In light of the progress made during Year One, and informed by the collective knowledge and expertise at the Vision Zero for Cities Symposium, Transportation Alternatives presents the following recommendations for Vision Zero: Year Two.

Rebuild Arterial Streets

Authorize the New York City Department of Transportation to prioritize rebuilding the most dangerous streets – arterial roadways where over 50 percent of bicyclists and pedestrians are killed – with wholesale redesigns.2

Enforce Traffic Laws

Empower the New York Police Department to protect the most vulnerable users of the streets – pedestrians and bicyclists – with data-driven traffic enforcement strategies and increased resources to deter the most dangerous violations.

Deter Reckless Drivers

Embolden New York City’s five district attorneys and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to create real deterrence for reckless driving by penalizing and prosecuting drivers who kill and injure bicyclists and pedestrians.

Prioritize Cooperation

Strengthen the citywide commitment to Vision Zero by prioritizing interagency cooperation and expanding the breadth of agencies involved in Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Task Force.


Vision Zero Now, Transportation Alternatives’ Coalition to End Traffic Violence is made up of a broad array of New Yorkers who stand by these recommendations.


Background

By the end of 2013, traffic fatalities had exceeded gun murders in New York City, with 294 people killed by dangerous drivers.3 This spate of fatalities included the deaths of many children. In a groundswell of demand, New Yorkers insisted on immediate action to end serious injuries and fatalities caused by traffic.

In February 2014, a group of crash survivors and family members of New Yorkers killed in traffic joined forces to form Families for Safe Streets. The new group pushed New York City policymakers to take traffic crashes seriously. Mayor Bill de Blasio listened up, sitting down with the families and promising to inaugurate a Vision Zero initiative.

In the winter of 2014, Mayor de Blasio committed the City to a 10-year goal of Vision Zero – eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The Mayor’s Office of Operations formed an interagency Vision Zero Task Force. Shortly thereafter, the City Council responded to the challenge by passing an unprecedented 15 bills and resolutions on traffic safety. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg also took immediate steps, establishing the Arterial Slow Zone program to fast-track low-cost engineering changes on some of the city’s most dangerous arterial streets.

Most significantly, in the summer 2014, the City took a huge step to tackle the speeding epidemic – the number one cause of fatal crashes in New York. Mayor de Blasio, Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives activists, DOT Commissioner Trottenberg and members of the City Council partnered with lawmakers in Albany to change New York City’s default speed limit to a safer 25 mph. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law in August 2014.

With all eyes on New York City’s progress, and cities around the world taking note of how Vision Zero is being implemented in the Big Apple, Transportation Alternatives announced its inaugural Vision Zero for Cities Symposium. On Friday, November 14th, 2014, more than 300 urban leaders, policy-makers and authorities in traffic enforcement, engineering and public health from more than 30 municipalities and more than 20 national organizations convened for the first-ever national discussion on how to tackle the challenge of Vision Zero. The day’s presentations, conversations and debates resulted in a set of “Vision Zero Principles,” to guide implementation in cities around the world. These principles were critical in forming Transportation Alternatives’ Coalition to End Traffic Violence and shaping its recommendations for Vision Zero in 2015:


Redesign Arterial Streets

Mayor de Blasio should authorize the New York City Department of Transportation to prioritize rebuilding the most dangerous streets with wholesale redesigns of arterial roadways, where more than 50 percent of bicyclists and pedestrians are killed.4

In New York City, a majority of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities take place on a single type of road: arterials, wide streets that funnel high-speed traffic through every borough. Most arterial streets were designed decades ago with the singular intention of moving traffic, and no consideration for the needs of people on foot, bicycle or accessing public transit.

In order to achieve Vision Zero, Mayor de Blasio must prioritize the reconstruction of arterial streets for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders and car drivers. In 2015, the mayor and the Department of Transportation must make arterial street reconstruction a political and financial priority:

  • Commit to rebuilding all of New York City’s arterial streets, with the expansion of dedicated space for pedestrians, cyclists and buses, and begin groundbreaking on the first arterial street transformation
  • Develop plans to redesign streets so that a mistake made by any street user is less likely to result in serious injury or fatality
  • Publish time-bound goals to track progress toward arterial street reconstruction, and regularly re-evaluate strategy
  • Secure the necessary capital funding to achieve a meaningful reconstruction of all arterial streets
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Enforce Traffic Laws

Mayor de Blasio should empower the New York Police Department to protect the most vulnerable users of the streets – pedestrians and bicyclists – with data-driven traffic enforcement strategies and increased resources to deter the most dangerous traffic violations.

In New York City, reckless driving is a leading cause of death, one that exceeds gun murders and kills more children than any factor aside from illness. Sixty percent of fatal crashes are caused by speeding, failure to yield and a small number of other enforceable traffic violations. In 2013, speeding and failure to yield were enforced at a rate 31 percent lower than that of other moving violations.5

In order to achieve Vision Zero, NYPD officers must be empowered to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries through the strict enforcement of traffic laws, and to use crash data to drive enforcement decisions. In 2015, Mayor de Blasio and the New York Police Department must:

  • Employ data-driven enforcement at every opportunity and focus enforcement efforts on the most deadly traffic violations – speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Improve quality of published data to increase transparency
  • Make full use of automated enforcement tools such as speed cameras and red light cameras
  • Fully enforce New York City’s new Vision Zero traffic safety laws, which impose civil penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident (NYC Administrative Code 19-191) and make it a criminal misdemeanor for motorists to hit pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way (NYC Administrative Code 19-190)
  • Institutionalize Vision Zero training for all officers in the Police Academy and throughout their time with the force
  • Expand the high standard of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad to the precinct level, training local precincts to conduct thorough investigations of all traffic crashes
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Deter Reckless Drivers

To create effective deterrence, Mayor de Blasio must call on New York City’s district attorneys to bring charges against reckless or careless drivers who kill and injure bicyclists and pedestrians. Governor Cuomo must take action to reform the State Department of Motor Vehicles, so that such drivers will face penalties for lawless actions.

In New York City, district attorneys prosecute fewer than two percent of traffic crashes where the driver is sober and does not flee the scene. Time and again, reckless drivers who kill and injure New Yorkers walk away with nothing more than a summons for a traffic violation. Often, even those minor traffic summonses are thrown out by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In order to achieve Vision Zero, the governor must commit to reforming the Department of Motor Vehicles’ court system, to allow meaningful action against reckless drivers. For their part, district attorneys must begin prosecuting drivers in New York City criminal courts when reckless behavior causes death or serious injury. In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, together with the five New York City district attorneys, must promote deterrence against reckless driving with penalties and prosecutions:

New York City District Attorneys
  • Work with the New York Police Department to prosecute failure to yield as a criminal misdemeanor, and enforce the mandatory three-month license suspension for serious driving offenses to include: hit-and-run crashes, driving without a license, reckless driving, striking someone who has the right of way
  • Establish a Bill of Rights for crash victims’ families. Implement comprehensive Vision Zero training for all staff
  • Change internal language references from “accident” to “crash.” Increase the criminal prosecution of reckless drivers
  • Introduce restorative justice and alternative sentencing practices with input from victims and families
  • Systematically compile and share data about charges filed and outcomes
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Reform the Department of Motor Vehicles’ license point system to apply higher point values to violations where a crash results in serious injury or death; end the policy of allowing points to expire
  • Ensure accountability with mandatory, prompt, and well-publicized safety hearings, where victims, their families, and New York Police Department crash investigators may attend, present evidence and make statements
  • Institutionalize Vision Zero training in driver education
  • Publicize traffic safety statistics and safety hearing outcomes quarterly
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Prioritize Cooperation

New York City reached a record low number of pedestrian fatalities in 2014, a clear indication that interagency cooperation has a real-time effect on traffic safety. In 2015, Mayor de Blasio must broaden the commitment to Vision Zero by including more city and state agencies and bringing greater transparency to the effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries:

  • Expand the membership of the Vision Zero Task Force to include the Department of Education, Department of Motor Vehicles, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and all five district attorneys’ offices as full partners
  • Institutionalize collaboration across various levels of government and between government officials and the public
  • Publish time-bound goals to track progress toward Vision Zero and regularly re-evaluate strategy
  • Create specific objectives to track movement towards Vision Zero while conducting consistent, thorough analysis of efficacy
  • Shape messaging to promote a culture of traffic safety. Communicate with singular focus on the behaviors that kill and injure the most people
  • Expand the membership of the Vision Zero Task Force to include the Department of Education, Department of Motor Vehicles, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and all five district attorneys’ offices as full partners
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Conclusion

In 2014, the people of New York witnessed remarkable change on traffic safety. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bold goal of Vision Zero and the rapid response by Families for Safe Streets, City Council members, Albany lawmakers and activists launched a movement to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The results are already becoming apparent: fewer pedestrians were killed in New York City in 2014, the lowest number of fatalities since 1910. 6

In 2014, the people of New York demanded Vision Zero. Mayor Blasio and the City Council effected changes that proved beyond a doubt that traffic fatalities and serious injuries are preventable. Vision Zero will not be reached overnight, but New York is on the right track.

There is an inspiring commitment to the goal of ending the epidemic of traffic violence on New York City streets. In 2015, the City must apply that momentum to projects that will make the streets safer and better for every resident, commuter and visitor: the redesign of arterial corridors, the increased enforcement of traffic laws, the use of prosecution and penalties to deter reckless driving and the prioritization of interagency cooperation.

Citations




1 New York City Police Department. “NYPD Motor Vehicle Collisions” [Data File]. (2014). NYPD Motor Vehicle Collisions Open Data Portal. https://data.cityofnewyork.us/NYC-BigApps/NYPD-Motor-Vehicle-Collisions/h9gi-nx95


2 Nicaj, L., et al. "Bicyclist Fatalities and Injuries in New York City: 1996-2005: A Joint Report from the New York City Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks and Recreation, Transportation, and the New York City Police Department." (2006). Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclefatalities.pdf


3 Viola, R., et al. "The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan." New York City Department of Transportation. (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc_ped_safety_study_action_plan.pdf


4 NYS Department of Motor Vehicles “Summary of New York City Motor Vehicle Crashes” (2013). NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. http://dmv.ny.gov/statistic/2013nyc.pdf; Moore, Tina. & Sandoval, Edgar. “New York City murders drop by 20% in 2013 but not all denizens feel safe.” (2013). NY Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/nyc-murders-drop-20-2013-not-feels-safe-article-1.1561930


5 Nicaj, L., et al. "Bicyclist Fatalities and Injuries in New York City: 1996-2005: A Joint Report from the New York City Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks and Recreation, Transportation, and the New York City Police Department." (2006). Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclefatalities.pdf


6 Viola, R., et al. "The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan." New York City Department of Transportation. (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc_ped_safety_study_action_plan.pdf