Some Attribute More Frequent Car Crashes to the Defunding of “Vision Zero”
By Yehudit Garmaise
The good news is that the Department of Transportation (DOT) just reported that pedestrian deaths, which totaled 91 this year, are the lowest on record in New York City.
Drivers of cars and motorcycles in the city, however, have not been so lucky.
Although fewer cars have been on the road this year because of the pandemic, for some reason, fatal car crashes are more frequent than last year, the DOT just said. Unfortunately, this year so far, 222 drivers have been killed, which is the highest that number has been since Mayor Bill De Blasio took office in 2014.
When hearing this news many New Yorkers may wonder what happened the “Vision Zero,” what was a 2014 program that the mayor initiated to completely eliminate traffic and pedestrian deaths with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who just announced that she will be leaving next month.
The aim of “Vision Zero” was to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries, which were spiking when Mayor de Blasio took office, and the innovative program did help the city to achieve all-time lows in traffic-related fatalities.
City Hall’s most recent budget, which unfortunately required many cuts to other programs because of the great needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, had to cut $18 million from funds that would have gone to the creation of more bike and bus lanes, which many say are the keys to greater traffic, pedestrian, and biker safety.
“[Tragic car crashes] are the predictable and preventable outcome of the defunding the Vision Zero initiatives and prioritizing the movement of car traffic above human life,” said, Danny Harris, the director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group.
Vision Zero had criminalized traffic violators who endanger the lives of pedestrians, installed speed cameras, and increased the number of “countdown timers” on stoplights to signal when pedestrians can walk across crosswalks.
Vision Zero is based on a similar program in Sweden, in which urban planners had hypothesized that pedestrian deaths are not as much "accidents" as they are a failure of street design.
“Every single street redesign helps, all the enforcement helps , all the speed cameras help,” the mayor said on Monday. “We just have to keep doing it, and it does change behavior."