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Vision Zero in Crisis: 2021 now on track to be deadliest year in De Blasio era

First half of 2021 also broke records for number of hit-and-runs as well as number of pedestrians and motorists killed

July 22, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

2021 is now on track to be the deadliest year for traffic violence under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership, according to a new data analysis from the first six months of 2021, released by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets on Wednesday. Through June 30, fatal crashes killed at least 124 New Yorkers — more than the first half of any year in the de Blasio administration. Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are calling for City Hall and our city’s next leaders to immediately enact life-saving measures on our streets – including taking steps to implement NYC 25×25, a plan to give back 25 percent of NYC’s streetspace to people, not cars.

“More people are dying on Mayor de Blasio’s streets because he failed to quickly and aggressively scale the safety solutions of Vision Zero that he knows work, instead choosing to deliver piecemeal projects and unfulfilled promises,”  said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “We need Mayor de Blasio to fast-track redesigns on dangerous corridors, and we need the next mayor and City Council to significantly expand Vision Zero and to deliver on NYC 25×25 and prioritize people over cars in this city.”

“Every month in 2021 we are breaking records for lives lost to traffic violence. These are our neighbors, our parents, our siblings, and our children — killed because our elected leaders failed to expand the significant early success of Vision Zero. We need the next administration to act much more forcefully to expand Vision Zero to every neighborhood, and combat the public health crisis of traffic violence. And we need Mayor de Blasio, in his final months, to take immediate action to prevent 2021 from being the deadliest of his tenure,” said Families for Safe Streets member Judy Kottick, whose daughter Ella Bandes was struck and killed by the driver of an MTA bus in 2013.

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The Data:

Drivers have killed more than 1,700 individuals since Mayor de Blasio took office. Even before the pandemic, traffic violence was rising. Pedestrian deaths increased year-over-year in 2018 and 2019. Cyclist deaths nearly tripled from 2018 to 2019.  This year, the numbers continue to rise – partially fueled by a speeding epidemic and dangerous rise in SUV ownership – and are reaching grim milestones:

  • OVERALL: Through June 30, 124 New Yorkers were killed in fatal crashes, making the first half of this year the deadliest first six months of any year under Mayor Bill de Blasio. As of July 19, 136 New Yorkers were killed in fatal crashes.
  • PEDESTRIANS: Through June 30, 64 pedestrians were killed in traffic violence, making the first half of this year the deadliest first half for pedestrians of any year since Mayor de Blasio took office. As of July 19, 69 pedestrians were killed in fatal crashes.
  • CYCLISTS: Through June 30, eight cyclists were killed in fatal crashes. As of July 19, the number stands at 10. Half of these fatalities were in the Bronx, and the first six month of this year were the deadliest first six months of the year for cyclists in the Bronx since Mayor de Blasio took office. For a different perspective: In the year ending June 30, 2021, nine cyclists were killed in the Bronx, which is more than in the first five years of the de Blasio administration combined, when there were eight cyclist fatalities in this borough.
  • MOTORISTS: Through June 30, 52 motorists were killed in crashes, making the first half of this year the deadliest first six months of any year under Mayor Bill de Blasio. May 2021, with 16 fatalities, was the deadliest May and the second deadliest month overall for motorists since Mayor de Blasio took office, second only to September 2020 with 17 motorist deaths. The average number of motorist fatalities each month is seven. As of July 19, 58 motorists were killed in fatal crashes.
  • MAY: The 31 total fatalities this May make it the third-deadliest month ever since Mayor de Blasio took office. The city hit 100 fatalities for the year on May 30, the shortest time it has taken to reach this grim milestone over the past seven years.
  • BOROUGH-SPECIFIC: The first half of 2021 was the deadliest first half of the year in Brooklyn both overall and specifically for pedestrians since Mayor de Blasio took office. In May, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens each broke or tied records for the number of fatalities for any May under the de Blasio administration. These milestones come as the city quickly approaches its 500th fatality in Brooklyn, 550th in Queens and 300th in Manhattan since Mayor de Blasio took office. As of today, there have been 499 fatalities in Brooklyn since Mayor de Blasio took office.
  • HIT-AND-RUNS: According to a new Gothamist investigation, drivers committed 47 fatal or near-fatal hit-and-runs on city streets during the first half of 2021 – the highest total for any half-year period since at least 2015, when record-keeping began. Police made just 11 arrests in these cases. By comparison, the NYPD has a clearance rate for non-vehicular murders of 54 percent. When looking at all hit-and-runs, including those that cause property damage or injury, arrests have only been made in less than one percent of incidents.

What the Current Administration Must Do

The solutions that save lives on our streets are well known and proven many times over. Mayor de Blasio controls the streets across the five boroughs. He must scale what works. He must fast-track life-saving street redesigns on dangerous corridors across the five boroughs. He must heed the recommendations of his own Surface Transportation Advisory Council, which he has ignored for a year. He must ensure the Streets Master Plan, to be published in December, employs best practices from cities worldwide and sets up our streets to be healthier, fairer, and safe for all in coming years. The plan will only be a success if he begins to dedicate additional resources, contractors, materials and supply chains to reach these goals. Mayor de Blasio cannot leave these critical responsibilities to his successor.

In their final months, the current City Council must also build upon their pioneering legislative work, such as the Streets Master Plan, and pass additional measures to break New York City’s car culture and make our streets safe and equitable.

What the Next Administration Must Do

In the next administration, people must be prioritized over private vehicles. To date, 200 local organizations have signed on to Transportation Alternatives’ NYC 25×25 challenge, calling on the next mayor to convert 25 percent of space for cars into space for people by 2025. This vision is proven to help address air quality, climate change, economic inequality, and will also be a key way to reach Vision Zero. Fewer cars means fewer deadly, multi-ton machines on our roads. More car-free spaces means less conflicts between cars and vulnerable road users. Expanded sidewalks will lead to narrower travel lanes, requiring drivers to move at slower speeds. Our next mayor must combat the harm that cars inflict upon New Yorkers. They must put streets to better use than prioritizing the movement and storage of lethal multi-ton vehicles.

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What Albany Must to Do

As discussions continue around the NYS Legislature returning for a special session this summer, the Assembly must pass Sammy’s Law without delay. This legislation, which already passed the Senate, would allow New York City to set lower speed limits on its streets. Every one mile per hour reduction in driving speed is shown to result in a 17 percent decrease in fatal crashes. Other cities that have lowered the speed limits found this to be an effective tool to rein in speeding. In Portland, the number of cars driving 30-35 mph dropped 26 percent and the number of cars driving over 35 mph dropped 47 percent when the speed limit was lowered from 25 to 20 mph, as Sammy’s Law would allow.

Next session, the legislature must address the traffic violence crisis and pass the entire package of lifesaving bills in the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act.


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