After six pedestrians were killed in the span of 48 hours last week, the Department of Transportation and the NYPD said they are responding by ticketing more drivers and focusing their enforcement on those behind the wheel of trucks and SUVs.
Four of the six pedestrians killed during that two-day span were hit by trucks, spurring a ticketing blitz against truck drivers over the weekend, according to NYPD Chief of Transportation William Morris.
Truck and SUV drivers are involved in some 46 percent of fatal crashes, up from about 40 percent between 2013 and 2017.
"We're seeing larger vehicles on the road — for example SUVs — and that's a nationwide trend," DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told reporters at a press conference on Monday morning. "You see people are buying SUVs when gas prices are low, and gas prices are incredibly low right now, and the economy is doing well."
In addition to issuing summonses, the DOT is calling on the truck and SUV industry to design vehicles with better visibility, and has rolled out a $4 million ad campaign urging male truck drivers to slow down. A fleet of cargo bikes in a Manhattan pilot program is aimed at easing truck congestion.
"A bunch of us want to be a part of a movement to say it's also—what's the safety of how [truck drivers] interact with pedestrians and cyclists on the street," Trottenberg said. "I see a lot of dangerous behavior with trucks in my own neighborhood. I see them racing through red lights. I see them backing up in places where visibility isn't good."
Chief Morris said the amount of failure to yield summonses have increased 89 percent in the past year, from more than 7,600 to nearly 14,400 issued between November 1 to December 18 — a deadly time of year as daylight hours decrease. Moving violations issued to drivers in the bike lane have increased from 75 to about 280 during that time period, and about 18,900 speeding tickets were issued, a slight increase from the same time last year.
"When the sun goes down and visibility is reduced, motorists are less likely to see pedestrians and the cyclists with whom they share the road," Morris said.
Over the weekend, NYPD issued more than 1,000 summonses and 385 moving violations against truck drivers. Eight were taken out of service, according to Morris.
But while city officials tout 2019 as on track to become the second safest year in New York City since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of Vision Zero in 2014, overall traffic deaths increased this year compared to 2018—from 198 to 215.
In 2019, 117 pedestrians were killed on city streets—up from 115 in all of 2018. Twenty-nine cyclists have died, nearly triple the cyclist fatalities of last year.
Transportation Alternatives executive director Danny Harris said the city would have to redouble its efforts to meet the administration's goal of eradicating traffic deaths by 2024.
"As New York City saw an increase in cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in 2019, we must increase our focus on the timely implementation of Vision Zero," Harris said in a statement. "By using known and proven solutions, we can save lives and provide all New Yorkers with safe, equitable, and dignified transportation alternatives."
Brooklyn has been particularly deadly in 2019. In the borough alone, 17 cyclists were killed, up from two last year. On Third Avenue, there have been six total traffic deaths, more than the past five years combined on the busy industrial corridor.
"Progress is not always going to be linear," Trottenberg said at the press conference. "This is obviously not a good year, particularly the tragic spike in cyclist fatalities in Brooklyn is something we're putting a lot of resources into."
The city also announced plans to lower speed limits on Third and Hamilton avenues in Brooklyn from 30 to 25 miles per hour. Third Avenue is also being targeted for various pedestrian ramps, curb extensions and a two-way bike lane, city officials said.
Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said "lowering the speed limit is just the beginning."
"For years, residents of Sunset Park have been calling for action as pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by motorists due to an outdated and dangerous transit grid at major roads, like Third Avenue," Menchaca said in statement.