By Bill Parry
Last January Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg toured Queens Boulevard in Woodside and declared for the first time in a quarter of a century there were no fatalities on the Boulevard of Death and that his Vision Zero initiative was working. Make that two years.
The mayor announced Wednesday that Queens Boulevard in 2016 had a second consecutive year without a single traffic fatality after the second phase of street design was completed to Eliot Avenue in Elmhurst. In 1997, its worst year, Queens Boulevard had 18 pedestrian fatalities.
“Under Vision Zero, we have now seen traffic fatalities in our city decline for three straight years, strongly countering national trends,” de Blasio said. “I have said where Vision Zero is concerned, we are just getting started and can always do better, but I nevertheless want to thank the NYPD, DOT and supporting agencies on all their hard work to deliver another year of strong results.”
The mayor said 2016 saw the fewest fatalities ever recorded on New York City streets with 229, improving on the record 234 set in 2015. Traffic fatalities have declined for three consecutive years and are down 23 percent overall since before Vision Zero began.
“The first three years of Vision Zero in New York has been the safest three-year period in history on our city’s roadways,” Trottenberg said. “Under the mayor’s leadership, we achieved the safest-ever year with the redesign of more streets than ever before and with close collaborative work with our colleagues at sister agencies.”
In 2016, DOT completed more than 100 safety projects, 165 miles of corridor safety retiming, 18.5 miles of protected bike lanes, 405 speed bumps and more than 750 pedestrian head-starts, all new records, according to the DOT. The city’s overall 23 percent decline in traffic fatalities since 2013 runs defies national trends.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities nationwide last year saw their biggest increase in 50 years, a 7.1 percent increase, with increases for 2016 forecast to be even higher.
“Every life saved on our roads matters, because every life is a mother or father, sister of brother, friend or co-worker,” NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said. “New York City’s commitment to Vision Zero shows that a comprehensive approach to road safety has measurable impacts, and the city serves as a model for the rest of the country as we commit ourselves to reaching zero traffic fatalities.”
While three children were killed on city streets, it was the fewest-ever annual traffic fatalities of children under 17. The previous five years have seen an average of eight schoolchildren killed per year and as recently as 2004, 17 children were killed in a single year.
“The decline in traffic fatalities — especially among school kids — under Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative is certainly welcome news and we look forward to continuing this trajectory,” Borough President Melinda Katz said.
“However, after nine New Yorkers were killed in preventable traffic crashes in the first 10 days of 2017, Transportation Alternatives is demanding more be done.
“Of those nine deaths, seven occurred in Mayor de Blasio’s own “Vision Zero Priority” corridors or areas, previously identified high-crash locations, where the city must allocate funding for street redesign during the upcoming budgeting process,” TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “This is particularly essential in light of a recent decision from the state’s highest court, which ruled the city can he held liable in connection with crashes on streets where officials have failed to adequately study and implement traffic calming measures.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr