New York City Voters Overwhelmingly Support Vision Zero, New Poll Finds

Car owners even favor street redesigns that result in less parking, TransAlt survey says

New York voters overwhelmingly support Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured in traffic, and they favor street redesigns even if the changes leave less space for driving and parking, according to a new poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and commissioned by Transportation Alternatives. TransAlt released the findings today ahead of a City Council Vision Zero oversight hearing.

In the survey of nearly 900 likely voters, 82 percent of respondents across the city say they support the policy to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries with better street design and traffic enforcement. 63 percent of respondents say they support Vision Zero strongly, a figure that rises to 73 percent among Black, Hispanic and lower-income New Yorkers, groups that are disproportionately affected by traffic crashes and poor transit service.

“Consistently, New Yorkers say they want to see officials prioritize street safety and better transit, and that’s true of car owners as well,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "This poll shows that there’s strong support for street redesigns with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes and expanded safe pedestrian space, even if it results in a reduction in the number of parking spaces. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for his commitment this week to budget an additional $400 million for street safety improvements. The Mayor and the Council must now see to it that these funding increases are included in the final budget in April, and ensure that our deadly priority corridors and intersections are fixed without delay.”

Between 63 and 81 percent of respondents say they back measures to slow down traffic and protect people biking and walking, even if that means less space for vehicles. “These results are especially impressive considering that 68 percent of the people in this survey are car owners, in a city where only 46 percent own a car,” White said.

“Traffic violence affects people across the five boroughs, and this survey tells us that New Yorkers in every community want the kind of street safety improvements that are saving lives in some parts of the city,” said Amy Tam-Liao of Families for Safe Streets. “With this public support and the Mayor’s commitment to fund more street redesigns, the Council can move forward after this oversight hearing with new momentum to reach Vision Zero by 2024.”

The level of support for bike lanes has increased drastically since TransAlt and Penn Schoen Berland last polled likely voters in 2013. 24 percent strongly supported protected bike lanes back in 2013, a number that rose to 40 percent in 2016. Total support (combining those who strongly support bike lanes with those who support them somewhat) came in at 68 percent, compared to 56 percent in 2013. In addition, nearly seven in ten New Yorkers (69 percent) say expansion of Citi Bike should include new protected bike lanes.

Support for protected bike lanes and other street design improvements increases further when New Yorkers learn of their safety benefits, according to the poll. When learning that widened sidewalks and pedestrian safety islands have reduced traffic injuries and fatalities by more than 40 percent, the level of "strong support" rose by 12 percentage points to 51 percent, with an additional 29 percent somewhat supportive (for a total support level of 68 percent).

On Vision Zero traffic enforcement, there is great public support for stronger action against dangerous driving. 81 percent of respondents say penalties should occur more frequently and quickly when driver negligence causes injury or death. 82 percent think the Right of Way law’s misdemeanor penalty for injuring or killing a pedestrian or cyclist after failing to yield is either appropriate or not strong enough. Among lower-income NYers, 97 percent support this position, and only 1 percent of lower-income New Yorkers believe the misdemeanor penalty is too strong.

There is also overwhelming support for more speed safety cameras near schools. A total of 84 percent of respondents are strongly or somewhat supportive of more automated enforcement to deter speeding across the city.

"This poll shows the clearest evidence yet that New Yorkers are beginning to get it," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council Transportation Committee. "This is early proof that a culture change is underway, when even drivers are in favor of street designs that remove parking spaces. There is now a greater understanding of what these tradeoffs provide: safety for our more vulnerable street users. This is the result of strong advocacy from organizations like Transportation Alternatives, as well as having a strong partnership in government between the Council and the de Blasio Administration that has prioritized street safety. It is important that we capitalize on New Yorkers' shifting perspectives and make the permanent changes necessary to save lives in every corner of our city."

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said, “One child killed by a car is one child too many, and while we’ve made great strides towards making our streets safer, there’s still plenty of work to do. The good news is that New Yorkers across the five boroughs support targeted, smart policies to reduce crashes and keep our children safe. I’m proud to stand with Transportation Alternatives today to release the results of their poll and talk about policies, including my Safe Routes to School Action Plan, which would target street safety improvements around schools, and my Red Light Camera resolution, allowing New York City to make its own rules about this vital street safety tool, to keep all children safe.”

Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, said, "This poll confirms what we already know to be true: New Yorkers support and prioritize common sense infrastructure investments that save lives. We have made significant progress on the road to Vision Zero, but any traffic-related fatality is one too many. We must expand on what New Yorkers want and broaden our speed camera programs, redesign dangerous streets and intersections, and ensure that laws are enforces and that all who break the law are prosecuted."

Penn Schoen Berland conducted live telephone interviews from November 16-28, 2016 among 880 New York City likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.

In the coming weeks, Transportation Alternatives will be releasing more responses from the Penn Schoen Berland poll, which also examines New Yorkers’ views on traffic enforcement tools like speed safety cameras, as well as MTA funding and the Move New York Fair Plan.