StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure delivered the following testimony at today's City Council Committee on Transportation oversight hearing on Vision Zero progress and needs:
We were heartened by the news this week that Mayor de Blasio plans to budget an additional $400 million for Vision Zero. The City Council’s call last year for more funding for Vision Zero no doubt played a role in the Mayor’s decision; thank you for your continued advocacy for increased investment in safe streets.
This additional funding is critical, because our ability to achieve Vision Zero lies first and foremost in redesigning our streets. Vision Zero is predicated on the fact that people make mistakes, but that those mistakes should not cost someone a limb, or worse, his or her life. A margin for human error must be part of the equation, whether that error is on the part of people using our streets, or those whose job it is to enforce the laws governing them.
People on foot and on bikes and behind steering wheels are fallible, and police can’t be everywhere all the time. Street design must mitigate human fallibility, and this planned budget increase will help do that. It’s not enough to accomplish all that we need to do, but it moves us in the right direction. And we count on the City Council to continue to push the Mayor to invest in life-saving street redesign.
I recently had the privilege to speak with a group of 11th graders at the York Early College Academy in Jamaica, an incredibly diverse school whose students are deeply concerned about the safety of the streets around their school.
One of the first questions they asked me was about automated enforcement, and they were frankly incredulous – with good reason – that the deployment of speed and red-light cameras was tightly controlled by Albany. They were further dumbstruck that the city only has the right to deploy 140 speed cameras and 150 red-light cameras, in total, throughout the five boroughs.
They quickly realized that these paltry numbers make it highly unlikely that they could get even one camera placed near their school on dangerous Merrick Boulevard, which we could see a literal stone’s throw away from the classroom window. I certainly didn’t relish playing the part of Debbie Downer when they had invited me there to help them tackle their safety concerns.
I share this anecdote to underscore how important it is to move forward quickly with those things that the city can control – especially the redesign of unsafe streets. And if the Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Leader are listening, we urge them in the strongest possible terms to heed those kids’ voices and empower New York City to deploy automated enforcement technology in whatever way it deems appropriate.
Lastly, in regard to the specific pieces of legislation before the Committee today, StreetsPAC is broadly supportive of initiatives to implement traffic-calming devices in proximity to senior centers and naturally occurring retirement communities, install countdown clocks adjacent to schools and parks, improve safety along bus routes, create Safe Routes to Schools action plans, improve reporting on crash-related injuries and fatalities, and make crash reports more easily accessible.
We would urge the Council to use its power to monitor the operation and performance of the Department of Transportation and the NYPD in these matters to advance the initiatives outlined in these various Intros, which we believe are largely shared by the agencies. Implementing life-saving infrastructure and facilitating the sharing of information should be goals we can all agree on, and act upon, with or without legislation.