We delivered the following testimony today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation Oversight hearing evaluating the city's progress with Vision Zero:
When Mayor de Blasio, just two weeks into his term in January 2014, announced the formation of the interagency working group on Vision Zero, it marked the setting of an ambitious-yet-crucial mission for New York – to reduce traffic deaths to zero within 10 years.
To be sure, we’ve made some notable progress toward that goal. Lowering the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour, activating the city’s full complement of speed cameras, passing a law that makes it a crime to violate the Right of Way of people on foot and on bikes, rendering the vast majority of the Central and Prospect Park drives car-free, and beginning the transformation of Queens’s notorious “Boulevard of Death” to a modern complete street are all important milestones. Pedestrian deaths fell to a record low in 2014, and we just might reduce that number again this year.
While this is progress, we still must acknowledge that we have a long, long way to go on the road to Vision Zero.
Just last evening, another New Yorker was killed on a sidewalk when a red-light-running SUV driver in Richmond Hill triggered a crash that caused her to lose control and mount the curb. That crash also injured a toddler. In Staten Island on Monday night, two drivers killed pedestrians in separate crashes on Hylan Boulevard just three-and-a-half hours apart. Last week, an out-of-control for-hire driver struck a mother and four children on a Bronx sidewalk at high speed as they made their way to school. Miraculously, none of the five victims were killed. But crashes that cause death or life-altering injuries remain all too common, and dangerous driving remains too often the norm.
To have any hope of achieving Vision Zero by 2024, we must redouble our efforts. We must spend more – considerably more – to reengineer our streets, because while better enforcement and better education are important and laudable, the central tenet of Vision Zero is that people make mistakes, and therefore, we must design our streets for human fallibility.
We applaud Chairman Rodriguez’s commitment to better fund the Department of Transportation in order to increase operational capacity, as well as his call to build 400 miles of protected bike lanes by 2030. That type of world-class infrastructure has been proved again and again to significantly reduce injuries and deaths, not only among people on bikes, but among walkers and drivers and transit riders alike. It’s the type of engineering that saves lives, and it’s key to Vision Zero.
We must rapidly expand the Great Streets Program to tackle the redesign of more dangerous corridors every year, and take on the redesign of our intersections, where far too many New Yorkers are injured or killed while crossing in crosswalks while they have right of way.
In short, we must be bolder; we must think bigger; we must act faster. We need to summon the political will necessary to implement the life-saving changes that will inevitably engender grumbling from some, if we’re going to achieve Vision Zero for all.