By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative passed a significant milestone last week, ending the first six months of 2017 with the fewest traffic fatalities ever recorded since the city began documenting traffic deaths in 1910.
As of June 30, the city had 93 traffic fatalities, the first time fewer than 100 lives had been lost in such a period as the city increased traffic enforcement against dangerous violations like speeding and redesigning a record number of streets to make them safer.
“No loss of life on our streets is acceptable, but under Vision Zero, we have seen continued and consistent progress, with traffic fatalities on the decline for 3 1/2years, strongly countering national trends,” de Blasio said. “I thank the NYPD, DOT and supporting agencies on all their hard and innovative work to have us deliver this strong mid-year report.”
Cyclist, pedestrian and car occupant deaths are also down this year-to-date over 2016, with pedestrian and car occupant deaths at a record low since Vision Zero was rolled out in 2014.
“Nowhere else in America has seen our year-over year declines in traffic fatalities,” city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “However, we know that even with under 100 fatalities so far this year, that is still a hundred too many.”
Declines by borough have been the largest in Queens, with 23 fatalities in 2017 compared to 32 in 2016.
“The continuous decline in traffic fatalities 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. “Important roadway enhancements and a laser-focus on priority locations have made a difference.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) was an early proponent of the mayor’s Vision Zero plan and supported the controversial Queens Boulevard redesign.
“The work we’ve done together to achieve Vision Zero has made it safer than ever to travel in New York City,” Van Bramer said. “This success is the result of increased engagement and input from parents, transportation safety advocates, and concerned community members who fight for street safety improvements in dangerous intersections, near schools and community centers, and along busy corridors.”
Still, Van Bramer warned against complacency. After two cyclists were struck by vehicles at the same intersection in Sunnyside, killing one of them and injuring the other in separate collisions this spring, Van Bramer held a rally demanding the DOT conduct a serious, comprehensive study of the intersection at 43rd Avenue and 39th Street.
Van Bramer sent a letter to the DOT April 11 calling for the study in “an expeditious manner” and requesting additional immediate action to prevent serious injury and death. His office is still awaiting a response nearly three months later.
“Though much progress has been made, a cyclist killed and another seriously injured in the same Sunnyside intersection within a 10-day period reminds us that the work is not yet finished,” Van Bramer said. “After this tragedy, I called for immediate traffic calming measures, signage to alert to the presence of cyclists, and protected bike lanes along 43rd Avenue. I am closely monitoring DOT’s progress and will continue highlighting work that needs to be done in my district to protect cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.”
A DOT spokesman said the agency is in the process of investigating the intersection for possible improvements, and once the analysis is completed the agency will bring a proposal to the community later this year.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr