Mayor de Blasio's Vision Zero falters, NYC traffic deaths up – New York Daily News – New York Daily News

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic deaths in New York City is back at square one as he prepares to leave City Hall.
At least 266 pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have been killed on city streets this year, the highest of any year since 2013, when 299 people died in vehicle crashes in the final year of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.
The grim trend complicates de Blasio’s transportation legacy. De Blasio launched his Vision Zero program just two weeks after he took office in 2014 with the aim of stopping motor vehicle-caused deaths with help from such initiatives as redesigning streets and cracking down on dangerous driving.
The program had some success over the following eight years. Traffic fatalities dropped 30%, from 334 deaths per year under Mayor Bloomberg to about 234 per year under de Blasio.
But advocates say that progress isn’t much to be proud of. They slam de Blasio for kowtowing to a vocal minority of New Yorkers who own cars instead of pushing forward with a bold reimagination of street space, which covers about a quarter of the city’s land mass.
“Mayor de Blasio deserves credit for bringing Vision Zero to New York City, but too often it remained only a slogan — especially in the most recent years,” said Cory Epstein, a spokesman for the street safety group Transportation Alternatives.
“Traffic violence is worse now in 2021 than when Mayor de Blasio took office,” Epstein said. “Success wasn’t scaled, despite us knowing exactly what is needed to design streets for safety.”
The city Department of Transportation has since 2019 installed hundreds of speed and red light cameras — and the City Council in Feb. 2020 passed a law establishing a program to seize cars that rack up high numbers of tickets from the cameras.
But bungled vendor negotiations under de Blasio delayed the launch of the program until this past November, two months after a 3-month-old baby was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in a car that would have been impounded through the program. The horrific crash was regarded as a low point for the mayor’s administration.
De Blasio administration officials still celebrate the progress they’ve made, despite the growing number of traffic deaths in recent years.
Roughly 81% of the city’s 198 miles of protected bike lanes and about 47% of the city’s 141 miles of bus lanes were installed under de Blasio. The city also created dozens of miles of “open streets” since the onset of the pandemic, giving New Yorkers more leisure space on streets that are usually cramped with cars.
“This administration oversaw seven of the eight safest years in New York City history, and we did it by fundamentally changing the way our streets look and feel,” said de Blasio spokesman Mitch Schwartz. “None of that was easy, but all of it made this city safer and more livable. It’s a legacy worth building on for the next phase of this fight.”
Transportation advocate Charles Komanoff argued more could have been done to turn the city away from cars, gridlock and crashes — and that de Blasio had the political support to do it when he first took office.
Komanoff pointed to a de Blasio flip-flop that he said delayed the approval of congestion pricing by lawmakers in Albany.
“In early 2013, then candidate and public advocate Bill de Blasio met with me and other advocates to discuss congestion pricing — and wow he really got it,” said Komanoff. “He got the holistic nature of raising revenue and thinning the traffic stream. He got the point of having less cars on the road.”
But that initial support did not translate into public advocacy after de Blasio took office. Even after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support for congestion pricing in August 2017 to raise money for transit upgrades, de Blasio railed against it and lobbied for a millionaire’s tax as an alternative.
De Blasio in 2019 finally supported the car-taxing program — and has since lobbied the federal government to speed up its approval.
“That was a crucial 18 to 24 month period from August 2017 into the spring of 2019 where he really could have made a difference,” Komanoff said.
As Mayor-elect Eric Adams prepares to take over, his incoming Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez is making big promises to push forward with Vision Zero.
“We are not only facing a pandemic due to COVID but a pandemic of unsafe streets that must be tackled head on,” Rodriguez said at a press conference last week announcing his new role. “We will get started on day one.”