The Grades Are In: Mayor de Blasio, City Departments Make Progress, but Vision Zero Remains Out of Reach

Vision Zero Report Card shows City’s bad habits and resistance to proven life-saving policies are endangering children, seniors and New Yorkers who ride bicycles
Joseph Cutrufo -
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Mayor de Blasio’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024 will remain out of reach until his administration and the municipal departments which comprise New York City’s Vision Zero Task Force enact dramatic changes, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives.

The Vision Zero Report Card 2017: An Evaluation of the Leaders Responsible for Preventing Traffic Fatalities and Injuries on New York City Streets, released today by Transportation Alternatives, found that despite progress on reducing pedestrian deaths and total traffic deaths, the City’s Vision Zero efforts are not doing enough to protect all road users, particularly bicyclists, seniors and children.

Transportation Alternatives analyzed the self-reported efforts of the key partners on the Vision Zero Task Force  -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services -- and provided grades for each based on ambition, internal culture change, measurable effects of their work, and for their overall efforts.

Three of the five departments graded received grades in the “B” range, while just one received lower than a “C.” The Department of Citywide Administrative Services was the only Vision Zero Task Force Member to receive an “A.”

Notable findings by Transportation Alternatives include:

  • More children (9) and senior citizens (55) were killed in traffic crashes in 2017 than 2016. The oldest pedestrian killed was 91-year-old Robert Stevenson. The youngest pedestrian killed was one-year-old Skylar Perkins, one of two child pedestrians killed in 2017.
  • Only half of the protected bicycle lane miles that the Department of Transportation installed in 2017 were built on the agency’s stated Vision Zero Priority Corridors.
  • Despite zero serious injuries being a requirement to reach Vision Zero, the City of New York still does not track serious injuries, nor where, how, and why they occur. The number of people injured in traffic has been on the rise since 2014, and is projected to increase to an all-time high in 2017.
  • Drivers committing the two most dangerous enforceable traffic violations – speeding and failure to yield – injured more people in 2017 than 2016. Speeding drivers killed more people in 2017.
  • For-hire vehicle drivers licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission were involved in more fatal crashes, and more crashes resulting in critical injury, in 2017 than in 2016. TLC revoked zero of these drivers’ professional licenses.
  • No pedestrians or people on bikes have been killed on Queens Boulevard since the street was named a Vision Zero Priority Corridor and subsequently redesigned with protected bike lanes and shorter crossing distances in 2014.
  • Widespread and aggressive installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals by the Department of Transportation has contributed to a dramatic decline in pedestrian fatalities, as evidenced by a significant decline in fatal crashes caused by failure to yield at intersections.

“We’re making progress, but inertia is preventing the mayor and key municipal agencies from being more ambitious about saving lives,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Four years into the Vision Zero era, there is so much more that the City can -- and should -- be doing to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries.”

Among the organization’s recommendations are

  • Tracking crashes in which people are seriously injured, which the NYPD does not currently do. By investigating and publishing data on non-fatal crashes, we can better understand what factors cause them, and in turn, be more effective in eliminating these crashes -- which is also within the purview of Vision Zero.
  • Renewing New York City’s speed safety camera program, which is set to expire this year, and expanding the program so that there is a camera near every school in the city. These life-saving devices have been shown to reduce speeding, the number one cause of fatal traffic crashes, by 63 percent on average.
  • Putting the “priority” back in Vision Zero Priority Corridors. The number of bicyclist deaths increased in 2017 compared to the previous year, with more than a third of them taking place along Vision Zero Priority Corridors. The city is taking a data-driven approach to eliminating pedestrian deaths; to achieve Vision Zero, it must use similar research-backed methods for eliminating bicyclist deaths.
  • Reducing the presence of the automobile in New York City. Drivers of cars and trucks were involved in each and every one of the fatal crashes that took place in 2017. Embracing a proposal that would seriously discourage driving in New York, especially in the most transit-rich, pedestrian- and cyclist-dense areas, is absolutely critical to eliminating traffic deaths. 

“If we’re going to reach Vision Zero, we need to dramatically scale back the volume of cars in New York City,” White said. “One hundred percent of the injuries and fatalities that took place last year were caused by the drivers of motor vehicles.”

“The release of the 2018 Vision Zero Report Card is a solemn occasion, especially as we examine motorist and bike rider deaths, and the impact of serious injuries. We must renew our commitment to making our streets truly safe for all – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike. Substantial progress has been made over the past four years, but we still have a long way to go as we seek to transform the way our streets are shared. Thank you to Transportation Alternatives for pushing all of us to make the promise of Vision Zero a reality,” said New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“It’s incredible that New York City just wrapped our safest year on record, but Vision Zero is working for just that – zero. Zero injuries, fatalities and incidents,” said New York City Council Member Keith Powers.

“The recommendations outlined in Transportation Alternatives’ latest report card are integral to strengthening our city’s efforts to reach Vision Zero and improve traffic safety for all,” said New York City Council Member Margaret Chin.  “While we have made great progress – accomplishing a record plummet of pedestrian fatalities in 2017 – there is still so much more work to do.  I thank Transportation Alternatives and fellow advocates for their commitment to accountability, transparency and results, and look forward to continuing our progress in Lower Manhattan and across our city.”

"Transportation Alternatives’ report card has highlighted what New York City still needs to do in order to make our city safer for riders and pedestrians," said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos. "We should take note of the problem areas listed and do what we can where we can as soon as possible.”

The grades in the Vision Zero Report Card were assigned by senior members of Transportation Alternatives’ staff, and were based on agencies’ improvement from prior years’ Vision Zero report cards; Transportation Alternatives’ documentation of crash rates and reductions in New York City over the past decade; observation of the effectiveness of various Vision Zero efforts launched by City Hall in 2017; and questionnaire responses the agencies themselves.