This month marks the one year anniversary of New York City’s ambitious Vision Zero campaign , a plan to eliminate traffic fatalities by the year 2024.
As part of the effort , traffic calming and street design measures were implemented, bike lanes were expanded, speed cameras were installed in school zones, the citywide default speed limit was reduced to 25 mph, arterial slow zones were established, public education and awareness were ramped up and the NYPD significantly stepped up enforcement and ticketing for traffic violations. It’s an effort that requires all people, regardless of how they traverse those streets to rethink how they drive, walk and ride about their daily lives. It requires a shift in the culture of getting about in NYC, which is no easy task.
So, one year later, is the campaign making a difference?
Last year was the safest year to be a pedestrian since 1910 (when they began reliably tracking the statistics). I’ll say that again. 1910. There were 132 pedestrian fatalities in 2014, a 27% decrease from the year prior when there were 180. 2007 was the next safest year — 140 pedestrian fatalities.
The goal of Vision Zero is to make NYC streets safer for all who traverse them. So what about traffic fatalities in general? If you include bicyclists, drivers, passengers and motorcyclists, the total last year was 248. The year prior, 293. What about 2007, the next safest year for pedestrians? 275 total traffic fatalities.
While pedestrian fatalities were at the lowest in over 100 years, that victory was dampened by the increase in the number of cyclist fatalities . There were 20 in 2014, compared to 12 in 2013. There is clearly much more work to do.
Most of the initiatives have not even been in place a year and the administration says its work to make city streets safer is far from complete. Over 50 new projects have been identified, which include narrowing lanes (“road diets”) in some locations, 50 additional miles of bike lanes, redesigning troubled intersections and tackling corridors in the city notorious for pedestrian deaths, such as Queens Boulevard (otherwise know as the “Boulevard of Death.”) Mayor de Blasio: “Where we see problem areas, that’s where we’re going to apply these tools most intensely, and keep driving down these numbers and keep saving people’s lives.”