Ninety-five people died in traffic crashes in the first six months of 2017, according to the Department of Transportation, marking the fewest deaths in the first six months of any year since the city began documenting traffic deaths over a century ago, in 1910.
The first half of 2017 also marks the first time traffic deaths have dipped into the double digits. In the first half of 2016, 121 people died in traffic. DOT data supplied to Gothamist covers January 1st through July 6th. "No loss of life on our streets is acceptable, but under Vision Zero, we have seen continued and consistent progress," Mayor de Blasio stated Friday.
Cyclist, pedestrian and car occupant deaths are also down this year-to-date over 2016, though cyclists are dying at a faster rate this year than they were in 2013, before Vision Zero launched. Cyclists deaths have outpaced 2013 levels each year since Vision Zero launched, data shows.
Forty-eight pedestrians have died in traffic this year, down from 67 people in 2016-to-date. Sixty-five pedestrians died in that period in 2015, 60 in 2014, and 83 in 2013. As for car occupants, there have been 27 deaths this year-to-date, compared to 32 last year, 37 in 2015, 35 in 2014, and 23 in 2013.
Nine cyclists have died this year to date, down from 12 by this time in 2016. Five cyclists were killed between January and July 6th in 2015, ten in that period in 2014, and seven in that period in 2013.
Motorcyclist deaths have increased by one year-over-year, with 11 this year-to-date, 10 in 2016-to-date, six in 2015, 16 in 2014, and 15 in 2013.
Mayor de Blasio's office issued its third 12-month Vision Zero report in February, touting a 23 percent dip in overall traffic fatalities since the program launched in 2013. The numbers bucked a national trend, as the National Safety Council reported a 14 percent increase in traffic fatalities nationwide between 2014 and 2016. But while overall deaths declined, cyclist and pedestrian deaths increased slightly that year.
According to that report, there were 230 overall traffic fatalities in 2016, down from 234 the year prior and 299 in 2013. Still, 145 pedestrians died in 2016, up from 139 in 2015. There were 18 cyclist deaths in 2016, up from 14 in 2015.
Traffic death totals by year since 2013 broken down by pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicle occupants, and motorcyclists. (DOT)
"These are solid gains," said Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives, of the latest 2017 data. The latest statistics "should embolden the mayor to fast track more street redesigns so they don't get delayed by community board NIMBYism," he added.
Steely White criticized community boards that resist street redesigns at the neighborhood level. (The loss of parking spaces to accommodate bike lanes is a common sticking point.) But community board votes on street redesigns are technically advisory, and last year de Blasio overrode a community board decision that would have curtailed an overhaul on Queens Boulevard.
DOT has expressed concern about federal funding for Vision Zero initiatives under President Trump. According to Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, there is uncertainty when it comes to funding large-scale capital projects, like the Great Streets initiative. The DOT's 2017-2020 capital plan assumes more than $200 million in federal funds, according to the city.
White urged the DOT Friday to focus on low-cost, quick-install improvements like bollards. He also emphasized the importance of protected bike lanes in the wake of four cyclist deaths in three weeks: three in Manhattan and one in Bushwick. The DOT's latest strategic plan calls for 10 new miles of protected bike lanes each year—a bar Transportation Alternatives says is too low, noting that 400 miles of roadway designated as Vision Zero priority zones are currently unprotected.
"It must expand by at least a factor of five," the group stated Thursday.
DOT declined a request for comparable injury data for the first half of 2017. Injury data for 2015 and 2016 is currently being analyzed at the state level, a spokesman said.