Mayor says Vision Zero initiative is working

By Bill Parry

For the first time in a quarter of a century there were no fatalities on the Boulevard of Death in 2015.

No wonder Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Queens Boulevard Tuesday to announce his Vision Zero initiative is working so well that 2015 was the safest year on city streets since record-keeping began in 1910, with traffic fatalities down 22 percent and 66 fewer lives lost since 2013.

The mayor pledged to go even further in 2016 by unveiling $115 million in new capital investment for plans to calm traffic as well as expand efforts to crack down on dangerous driving, make hazardous left-turns safer and expand enforcement.

“We are serious about saving lives,” de Blasio said. “Vision Zero is working. Today there are children and grandparents who we might have lost, but who are instead coming home, safe and sound, because of these efforts. This progress is just the beginning, and Vision Zero is going to move ahead with even more intensity in the coming year.”

The mayor wants the state to allow speed cameras to be used 24 hours a day as opposed to just during school hours. He also wants speed cameras installed further away from schools.

“We’re going to push to pass state legislation that will lift restrictions to allow cameras to operate overnight and on other streets,” de Blasio said.

The mayor held his press event at the Razi School on Queens Boulevard, the notorious roadway that has been redesigned for safety. The first phase of its reconstruction is taking place along a 1.3-mile stretch from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) spoke of losing a personal friend of his on Queens Boulevard. Woodside resident Marion Kurshuk, 78, was struck and killed by a motorcycle while trying to cross at 58th Street just days before Christmas 2013.

“Tragically, we have lost too many members of our community to the dangerous conditions on our roads,” Crowley said. “And in a city that does more walking than anywhere else in America, we owe it to our family, friends and neighbors to do everything we can to make these streets safer. Vision Zero has clearly saved lives, and I look forward to continuing to work with the city on ways to further reduce the amount of injuries and fatalities in our communities.”

Meanwhile, Transportation Alternatives gave Vision Zero mixed reviews as the safe streets advocacy group unveiled its annual report card Wednesday at City Hall. It said while the mayor’s initiative is working, the city won’t meet its goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024.

Transportation Alternatives’ researchers found that if traffic deaths and serious injuries continue to fall at the current rate, New York City will not reach true Vision Zero until 2055 and an estimated 1,800 more people will die in traffic.

“Each day our city comes closer to the moment when no family will have to suffer the loss of a loved one,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “While we are making progress towards that goal, there is more work to be done.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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