StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Rethinking Vision Zero, Stopping Illegal Parking, Reducing Reliance on Vehicles and Improving Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

We testified today at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's oversight hearing today regarding the shortcomings of the city's Vision Zero efforts, the epidemic of illegal parking, and related topics, and also voiced our support for bills that would prohibit the sale of illegal license plate covers and decriminalize jaywalking. Our full testimony follows below.

Vision Zero doesn’t so much need to be “rethought” as it needs to be properly implemented, with a much greater emphasis on street design. Mayor de Blasio’s version of “Vision Zero” has relied far too much on enforcement – especially enforcement by police officers – rather than on designing streets in such a way as to markedly reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. That’s what real Vision Zero is all about.

Of course, redesigning streets to make human error less costly requires a heavy dose of political will, a will that’s been lacking in New York City’s version of Vision Zero. The will to physically force drivers to slow down and accept that their convenience cannot come at the cost of life, limb, and quality of life for New York’s non-driving majority. The will to invest in concrete curb extensions for people on foot, and concrete barriers for people on bikes. The will to restripe crosswalks and bike lanes on repaved streets in days rather than months. The will to tell people that a daylighted intersection, and the life it may save, is more important than a couple of free parking spaces.

We know what it takes; the examples are out there, in other countries, in street-design manuals. What’s missing is backbone. How many street-safety projects have been delayed, watered down, or scrapped because some Community Board or special interest has griped about parking or some mythical war on cars? It’s hardly a war if those who dare to cross a street or ride a bike in New York City are taking all the casualties.

Just last week, the redesign of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue was delayed. The proposed safety project on 7th and 8th Avenue in Sunset Park is stalled. In the past two weeks alone, two New Yorkers have been killed on Atlantic Avenue, which remains a traffic sewer on which vehicular throughput seems to matter more than human safety. We can’t get to Vision Zero with zero action to fix dangerous streets.

And as if the administration’s attempt to enforce our way to Vision Zero isn’t bad enough, it’s obvious to anyone who cares to look that the NYPD has checked out. Dangerous, aggressive driving is noticeably worse, illegal dirt bikes and mopeds are everywhere, and parking enforcement is non-existent. “This complaint does not fall under NYPD’s jurisdiction” are eight words familiar to anyone who’s made a 311 complaint about illegal parking in the past year.

The NYPD’s brazen abdication of enforcing the laws they’re sworn to uphold – and too often break themselves – is a glaring reminder that the police should be removed from routine traffic and parking enforcement to the greatest extent possible. Council Member Levin’s Int. 2159-2020, which would allow civilian reporting and documenting of illegal parking, was heard more than nine months ago, and still hasn’t moved. It’s well past time to bring it to a vote, pass it, and send it to the Mayor.

Int. 2417-2021: Support

We strongly support Int. 2417-2021, Council Member Holden’s bill that would prohibit the sale or distribution of license plate covers or materials intended to distort camera images. Illegal plate covers and physically defaced license plates are already a huge problem, and we can be assured that the problem will get exponentially worse once congestion pricing is implemented. This bill will help to address that.

Int. 2073-2020: Support

We also support Council Member Kallos’s Int. 2073-2020, which would decriminalize “jaywalking,” a “crime” that was promoted by the automobile industry more than 100 years ago. As with many alleged crimes in New York City, enforcement is inequitable and clearly biased – according to a Streetsblog analysis of data from 2019 and 2020, some 90% of jaywalking summonses were issued to Black and Latino New Yorkers. Given that there’s also data that shows that pedestrians are most often struck by drivers while they’re in the crosswalk with right of way, crossing midblock is a choice for self-preservation, and should be made legal ASAP. Pass these bills now.

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published this page in News 2021-10-26 15:01:21 -0400
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