Mayor de Blasio's office released their third Vision Zero report yesterday, and there is good news—overall traffic fatalities have decreased an unprecedented 23 percent since the program was launched in 2013, bucking a 14 percent nationwide increase in the same period. The bad news is, though there were slightly fewer traffic deaths in 2016 than in the year prior, there were slightly more pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
According to the report, there were 230 overall traffic fatalities in 2016, down from 234 the year prior. And in 2013, before de Blasio launched his Vision Zero campaign, there were 299 overall traffic fatalities. Still, 145 pedestrians died in 2016, as opposed to 139 in 2015; and there were 18 cyclist deaths last year, up from 14 in 2015.
The city says its efforts to increase traffic law enforcement, redesign streets to make them safer, install bike lanes and bring city agencies together to tackle traffic safety issues has helped mitigate traffic deaths. According to the report, the city issued 42,385 tickets to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians last year, a 243 percent uptick over the five year average pre-Vision Zero. The city says the NYPD also issued over 1,900 summonses and arrested 39 drivers who struck pedestrians or cyclists in violation of the Right of Way law.
Still, the mayor says that while the decrease in overall deaths is encouraging, the administration has work to do. “Despite our record success in saving lives these last three years, we know that Vision Zero is just starting,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Even with all of our work and after the safest year in history, someone was lost in a traffic crash on average once every day and a half, still far too frequent.”
Indeed, there were 10 traffic deaths in the first 10 days of 2017, and as of January 31st, there were 13 pedestrian deaths, 4 motorist deaths, and 1 bicycle death this year. The mayor has pledged an extra $400 million to the Vision Zero program in his 2017 budget, though some City Council Members and transportation advocates say the city still needs better traffic law enforcement in order to combat pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.
Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager with transit advocate group Transportation Alternatives, told Gothamist in a statement that though the group is glad Vision Zero is netting positive results, it's not quite enough:
We're pleased to see DOT making so much progress on the expansion of protected bike lanes and crossing signals that give pedestrians a head start, straightforward interventions that have been proven to prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries. Their left-turn initiative is a data-driven approach to target a problem that's actually killing and injuring pedestrians, and it involves interventions that are quick and relatively inexpensive to implement.
However, the budget increase the Mayor unveiled recently can only have a significant impact for Vision Zero if projects are scaled up and the focus is on 'priority locations' the DOT has identified. It's encouraging to see so many of these dangerous corridors and intersections received treatments in 2016, but there are still a lot of them waiting for significant interventions.
A source with City Hall tells us fatalities are down by 4 compared with this time last year, with 1 fewer pedestrian fatality and the same number of cyclist deaths. Raul A. Contreras, Spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, told us in a statement: "As the Mayor has said, there is still a lot of work to be done to buck the trend in traffic fatalities. However, with the help of DOT and NYPD, we have been able to reach record lows in traffic fatalities in the past 3 years. We're confident that we're going to build on this progress in the coming year."