This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio released New York's "Vision Zero" plan to eliminate traffic fatalities -- and it bears lessons and advice for cities everywhere.
Just to catch you up, the Vision Zero Action Plan is the outcome of Mayor de Blaiso's mandate that several city agencies -- including the Department of Transportation, the NYPD, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission -- generate and put forth recommendations for making streets safer for all. You can read the plan in full here, and visit the Vision Zero website for more information -- but below are five key takeaways that are applicable to all cities:
Collaboration: As the plan states, "Vision Zero regards traffic crashes as a policy problem that can be addressed through enforcement, education and design." In other words, core to the Vision Zero plan is the fact that overhauling street safety -- and, in particular, pedestrian safety -- is a job for multiple agencies and areas of expertise. Furthermore, collaboration must go beyond simply putting together a document: The plan also calls for "monthly meetings of the NYPD Transportation Bureau and DOT traffic engineers to analyze traffic safety data and set strategies for improvement."
Speeding: Multiple recommendations throughout the Vision Zero document point to the fact that speeding is an urgent problem that must be stopped. For example, as stated in the plan, one proposal is for New York State to "give the City the power over the placement of speed and red-light cameras, the power to reduce the citywide speed limit to 25mph, and to increase the penalties associated with dangerous driver behavior." The DOT has also recommended the addition of 250 new speed bumps.
Technology: Vision Zero also calls for several tech enhancements, including more speed and red light cameras, and better technology to capture and analyze crash data. Further, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed suggestions to better manage and control drivers. Those proposals include the following: "Pilot technology that alerts passengers and drivers that they are traveling over the speed limit," and "Explore in-car technology that limits vehicle speed, warns drivers of impending collisions, or that reduces the fare when the driver speeds."
Street design: A key statistic in the document shows that under the leadership of former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the city already began making significant changes to street design that have positively impacted safety. (See Leaving NYC's DOT, With Safer Streets as Her Legacy.) As the document states, "At locations where the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has made major engineering changes since 2005, fatalities have decreased by 34%, twice the rate of improvement at other locations." So what do we need to see more of? More protected bike lanes, more pedestrian plazas and islands, extended sidewalks and curb space, and beyond. According to Vision Zero, the DOT will also launch a "global best practices study" in an effort to bring proven street safety methods to New York.
Law enforcement: While the NYPD has been busy cracking down on jaywalkers, Vision Zero calls for their efforts to be focused on reckless drivers, whose actions have been responsible for 70% of pedestrian fatalities over the past five years. Not only must law enforcement do a better job of cracking down on dangerous drivers, but the city is also calling for stronger laws to punish drivers that hit pedestrians and cyclists due to carelessness. Vision Zero proposes making this a crime, rather than a traffic infraction, allowing for police officers to issue a summons to reckless drivers whether or not they were at the scene when the crime occurred.
The full Vision Zero plan is well worth a read, and anyone interested can see the mayor's press conference below:
speed Interesting point. I assume therefore that speed is not the main cause of accidents. Maybe a big one is the effect heavy traffic has on pedestrians trying to run across intersections on busy days and similarly drivers getting impatient and accelerating unnecessarily between lights to vent their own frustration at heavy traffic. It is mostly when I am late that I have near misses because we forget to be careful. Therefore better traffic management would go along way to help both pedestrians and drivers. This is where city tech comes in.
25mph Really, Mayor de Blasio? 25mph citywide limit? In NYC, all 5 boroughs? There are two driving speeds in Manhattan. During high traffic: 10 mph - brake, 10 mph - brake, repeat. You share your lane with at least one other car laterally at all times. Without traffic: the average speed is 50 mph, avenue or alley. When everyone speeds, you also speed, so you don't get hit. By the way, in the car insurance commercial where they count "one Mississipi, two Mississipi", it never happens in Manhattan.
Ok, that's a bit exaggerated. But 25mph citywide speed limit is just "funny".
Re: My prioritized list By the way, I completely agree that collaboration is essential here... that probably stood out for me more than anything else. Street safety is about way more than traffic planning and law enforcement -- it requires the input and involvement of all groups. Local business owners are an important part of this discussion -- especially those that have already seen how adding pedestrian areas nearby, or bike share terminals and bike racks, increases their foot traffic and sales.
Re: My prioritized list Thanks, NewDream - I didn't intend for them to be in any specific order, however, I pretty much agree with the way you've prioritized these items. While I do think that speed needs to be reduced, I also feel that's something that can be taken care of, in part, with better street design. Making more room for cyclists and pedestrians and reengineering the streets will do more for lowering car speeds than changing the speed limit. However, I'm fine with the city making that change, too.
My prioritized list I'm not sure if there is any implied order in the Vision Zero list. If 1 (collaboration) is the most important and 5 (law enforcement) the least, then amazingly enough I agree with those priorities. I'd put street design second, keep technology third, and relegate speeding to fourth though.
The key to my way of thinking is that the number of cars in the city needs to be reduced, the number of places they can go needs to be reduced, and once those steps are taken there won't be such a perceived need for law enforcment. In a city that does things like "stop and frisk" I am against increasing the power of the cops in any way whatsoever.
Collaboration is on top because for my vision of a reduction in private vehiclse in the city to work, there must be ever more convenient alternatives so that business owners as well as those who visit shops, restaurants, etc. are all able to thrive in the absence of their current manic affair with the car.
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