One day after Mayor de Blasio dubbed 2015 the safest year on NYC's streets in over a century, a new report from the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives [PDF] retorts that, taking the current rate of traffic death reduction into account, the city can't hope to achieve its Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities until at least 2055—three decades past the city's 2024 goal.
Along the way, they posit, an additional 1,800 New Yorkers could die in traffic.
According to the city, there were 231 traffic fatalities in 2015—22% fewer than in 2013, the year before the Mayor's street safety initiative was launched. 134 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2015, versus 139 in 2014 and 183 in 2013. To keep pace with its 2024 goal, an annual 45% reduction in pedestrian deaths would be necessary.
"There's a notion now that because the number of deaths is going down, that's a win, and that's not acceptable," said Transportation Alternatives Director Paul Steely White on Wednesday. "There needs to be some acknowledgement that the Mayor has a deadline. It follows that if you're trying to reach a goal by 2024 you need annual benchmarks."
With benchmarks, the advocates posit, the City would be able to hold itself to a highly specific death or injury-reduction standard, and adjust funding for safe streets projects accordingly.
Today's report card calls out what it deems to be significant progress in 2015, reflected in good-to-passable grades for the Mayor (B+), City Council (A-) and Public Advocate Letitia James (A). The redesign of Queens Boulevard, a.k.a. the "Boulevard of Death," was a triumph for the mayor, who also made large swaths of Prospect Park and Central Park car-free in 2015. The City Council gets credit for requiring side guards on city trucks, and increasing penalties for hit-and-run drivers; Public Advocate Letitia James introduced legislation to strengthen pedestrians' right of way in the crosswalk last year, and publicly denounced the DOT's delays in bike lane installation.
But weaknesses abound, according to the report, when it comes to street-safety repairs across the city, and NYPD enforcement of penalties for reckless drivers. Transportation Alternatives found that only 22% of 154 streets deemed dangerous by the DOT underwent improvements last year. And the NYPD earned a C-, having investigated fewer than 10% of serious-injury crashes in 2015.
Still, out of more than 14,000 cyclists and pedestrians injured in traffic crashes in 2015, only 120 Right of Way summonses were issued, 24 of which were dismissed.
Many of the safety upgrades White reiterated on Wednesday were small-scale and inexpensive, and echoed goals set yesterday by the Mayor. Removing parking spaces to increase left-turn visibility, for example, as well as increasing the number of protected bike lanes city wide, and reducing lane widths to discourage highway-level speeding. "The Mayor needs to make these the rule and not the exception," White challenged.
Mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell dismissed the report's accusations. "Vision Zero is on track and will only accelerate," he stated. "We've increased the energy and investment behind Vision Zero in each of the last two years, and 2016 will go even further. We’re adding $115 million in new capital funds to revamp dangerous streets, upping enforcement, and broadening education."