BY JON CRONIN
As a result of the city’s Vision Zero road safety project, New York City’s streets were the safest this past year for pedestrians since the horse and buggy was the leading mode of transportation, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week.
From the city Police Department’s Woodside fleet services warehouse, de Blasio recalled that it was a cold day four years ago when the initiative was begun.
“We didn’t know for sure how far it would go and how fast it would go,” the mayor said. “Vision Zero has been one of the things that works best in this city. It is one of the life changers. Now, we want to go even farther.”
He noted that there has been a 32 percent drop in pedestrian deaths over the previous year and that since the beginning of Vision Zero, overall traffic fatalities are down 28 percent. In the past four years, pedestrian fatalities are down 45 percent. The city’s numbers are in stark contrast to national figures, which have seen a 13 percent rise in traffic fatalities for pedestrians between 2013 and 2016.
De Blasio boasted that 2017 was the safest year on record “since we began keeping records in 1910.”
“The last time New York City’s streets were this safe, people were getting around with a horse and buggy,” he added.
De Blasio noted that Vision Zero is part of a five-year, $1.6 billion plan.
“We have been redesigning those intersections at a rapid pace, and we’re going to keep doing that,” he said. “When we lowered the speed limit, a lot of people said the sky would fall. Well, it didn’t. Most New Yorkers recognized that it was making people safer and I certainly heard the grumblings.”
The mayor mentioned that Queens Boulevard was once known as the “Boulevard of Death.”
“It is now the Boulevard of Life,” he said, adding that, five years ago, residents merely accepted that there were 10 to 17 deaths a year on that street—but in the past three years, there have been zero deaths on Queens Boulevard.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) noted that if the city could end pedestrian deaths on Queens Boulevard, then it could be done anywhere.
Councilman Bob Holden (D-Glendale) admitted that as a civic leader, he had been among the “doubting Thomases” regarding Vision Zero.
“You can’t argue with saving lives,” he said. “There are some issues, though.”
He noted that GPS apps that divert drivers off main arteries and into residential streets is one problem, and that he looked forward to working with Nicole Garcia, the Queens commissioner of the Department of Transportation, on installing speed bumps off the major arteries in his district.
Holden also pointed out that Maspeth does not have a subway station or adequate bus service.
“I was wrong. I’ll admit that. As a civic leader, we heard it before from many mayors, but this mayor is delivering,” Holden said.
The mayor agreed with Holden, stating that if people are to get off the roads, they need better public transportation, and that he would work with the councilman to get better service to his district.
Reach Jon Cronin via email at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.