Last year was the deadliest under Vision Zero. Here’s how Mayor Adams can save lives in 2022.
New data from the final quarter of 2021 confirms that 2021 was the deadliest year on New York City streets since 2013. With 73 fatalities between October and December, crashes killed 273 people total in 2021, a 33 percent increase over 2018, the safest year in New York City’s recent history. From 2014 to 2021, crashes killed 1,885 people across the five boroughs.
“We cannot let another year go by with traffic violence killing a record number of New Yorkers,” said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Unfortunately just this past week, drivers have killed pedestrians in Manhattan and teenagers in Brooklyn and Queens. Our leaders must use every tool available to address this preventable public health crisis. We are encouraged by Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez’s commitments to redesign intersections and upgrade protected bike lanes because Vision Zero at its core must focus on street design. We must also permanently fix dangerous corridors, expand automated enforcement, and create more car-free spaces as we envision in NYC 25×25. Alongside efforts at the local level, this year we also urge legislators in Albany to pass the entire Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act and ensure the speed safety camera program is expanded. All New Yorkers deserve safe streets. Nobody should fear death or injury as they move across our city.”
“No other New Yorker should experience the horrific pain of losing a loved one in a crash. Unfortunately, a record-number of our neighbors had to endure this pain in 2021,” said Families for Safe Streets Member Rhondelle Booker Adams, whose sister, a special education teacher, was killed in Midwood, Brooklyn, in 2017. “Early steps from Mayor Adams and his administration give us reason to hope that this deadly trend will be reversed, especially with their plan to redesign 1,000 intersections for safety. With the proven tool of deploying physical safe street infrastructure, we can get Vision Zero on track again. Our members look forward to partnering with Mayor Adams, the City Council, and state lawmakers to advance life-saving safety improvements to all corners of the city.”
“Every single traffic fatality is a tragedy,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Last year was a difficult one for Vision Zero, and this year has gotten off to a difficult start, with a number of traffic fatalities, many of them at intersections. That’s why Mayor Adams and I declared last week that intersections should be sacred spaces and outlined a plan to make targeted changes at more than 1,000 intersections this year. We remain relentlessly committed to safer streets, and we will continue to work with our advocate partners to truly save lives and reverse the terrible national fatality trends here in New York City.”
Takeaways From 2021
There were twice as many hit-and-runs in 2021 compared to 2018: There were 93 hit-and-runs with critical injuries during 2021, with each quarter having at least 20 hit-and-runs. As New York City faces an epidemic of traffic violence, arrests were made in just 23 percent of hit-and-runs — a 12 percent decrease compared to 2018. Even more concerning, only 3 percent of hit-and-run cases were solved. During the second and fourth quarters of 2021, zero cases were solved.
Share of pedestrian fatalities caused by drivers of SUVs is up 42 percent: According to data in Crashmapper, during Mayor de Blasio’s second term, the share of fatalities involving SUVs increased 42 percent for pedestrians compared to his first term. This problem is growing as more New Yorkers own large vehicles. SUVs now make up more than 60 percent of all personal vehicles owned in New York City, according to data obtained from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Increased ownership of these larger, more powerful vehicles has deadly implications for pedestrians and people riding bikes.
Crash data identifies Council districts and boroughs with most fatal crashes: Council District 31 in Queens, which includes Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, and Far Rockaway, led all council districts with 12 fatalities in 2021. District 17 in the Bronx, Districts 33 and 43 in Brooklyn, and District 50 on Staten Island all had 10 fatalities. Brooklyn led all boroughs with more than 80 fatalities, far above its Vision Zero-average of 61 per year. Alarmingly, the borough averaged one fatality every four days. In the Bronx, there were more cyclists killed in 2020 and 2021 than in the eight years from 2012 to 2019 combined.
“Every traffic death on the streets of New York is an avoidable tragedy,” said Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers Chair, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (District 31). “Street safety has cascading effects on our communities’ health and economic well-being. I look forward to working with transportation stakeholders across the city to advocate for responsible street redesigns and make New York safer.
Here’s How Mayor Adams, NYC DOT Comissioner Rodriguez, and the City Council Can Turn Around This Deadly Trend
The Adams Administration, which has embraced the NYC 25×25 vision, has already committed to fortifying 50% of plastic-protected bike lane barriers with sturdier protection, redesigning 1,000 intersections in an effort to control diver speed and protect pedestrians, and reducing the municipal fleet by 50 to 70 percent. These actions are a very strong investment in Vision Zero.
Below are additional measures that would build upon these promising first steps and help restore the promise of Vision Zero. Even more measures can be found in the recent Seven Steps To Save NYC Streets policy agenda recently released by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets.
Identify key corridors to redesign: Mayor Adams and NYC DOT must immediately select key corridors for major capital improvements. Transportation Alternatives’ recent Shovel-Ready NYC 25×25 Streets report identified one corridor per borough where unsafe street design puts some of the most vulnerable populations at risk, and provides a blueprint for where and how these corridors could be made safer. A recent piece in Streetsblog also identified five traffic violence epicenters that the City could prioritize, including East New York, which saw nearly nine crashes per day, Jamaica, which experienced 169 pedestrian injuries or fatalities last year, East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Williamsburg.
Mandate that NYC DOT follow the Vision Zero Street Design Checklist: By instructing DOT to treat the Vision Zero Street Design Checklist as a mandate, not a suggestion, major redesigns on all arterial streets will be executed fully to world-class safety standards. As NYC DOT embarks on the NYC Streets Plan to build 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes and 250 miles of protected bike lanes over the next five years, this will ensure that streets are made safe with worldwide best practices.
Launch the first U.S. program for speed governors: Also known as Intelligent Speed Assistance, these devices limit the top speed of vehicles. Installing these devices on all municipal vehicles will guarantee that the City workforce sets an example for safe driving. With such leadership, the City of New York has the ability to save lives and once again set an example with its municipal fleet, as it has with life-saving truck side guards.
Give teeth to the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program: Nearly 60 percent of pedestrians killed by drivers in 2021 were killed by “major violators” who, according to NYC DOT, fled the scene, had at least three prior convictions, or did not have a valid license. This shows why Mayor Adams must work with the City Council to strengthen the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program. This would more easily allow for impounding vehicles owned by serial reckless drivers, an effort that could have prevented the death of 2-month old Apoline Mong-Guillemin in Brooklyn in September.
Convert vehicle-use taxes for passengers to a weight-based system: This change reflects the greater impact of heavier cars on road surfaces, crash fatality rates, and carbon emissions, and is consistent with what the majority of New York State counties already do. Making this change could encourage New Yorkers to use smaller, safer cars.
And Work With Lawmakers In Albany To:
Ensure the speed safety camera program is reauthorized and strengthened: Locations where speed safety cameras operate has led to, on average, a 72 percent drop in speeding, according to NYC DOT. However, the cameras are limited in their locations and hours of operation. Lawmakers in Albany must reauthorize and expand the City’s speed safety camera program this year to ensure the life-saving benefits remain in place and are even stronger.
Pass the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act: The Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, a package of seven bills that includes Sammy’s Law for safe speed limits in New York City, is once again before the New York State legislature. City Hall’s support for this package is crucial. If passed, we can address rampant speeding, educate drivers on bike and pedestrian safety, and provide real support and rights to traffic crash victims and their families.
“One traffic death on NYC’s streets is too many, one every four days in Brooklyn is appalling. This is a crisis that we have to address immediately by working to end car culture. As Brooklyn Borough President, I am absolutely committed to supporting the redesign of our most dangerous corridors, and to supporting legislative proposals that prioritize street safety. I want to thank Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets for calling attention to this critical issue, and I will continue to stand by them in partnership as we work to end traffic violence in Brooklyn and all of NYC,” said Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Borough President.
“The significant increase in traffic violence and fatalities across the City and in our own Council district breaks my heart. These tragic deaths are avoidable, and I’m committed to doing everything I can to improve safety by realizing the network of truly protected bike lanes that our community deserves and getting dangerous vehicles and drivers off our roads,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler (District 33).
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