The first three months of 2022 were the deadliest on New York City’s street since former mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic violence in 2014, according to data analyzed by Transportation Alternatives. During those months, 59 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents, a figure that represents a 44% increase over the same period in 2021. If trends keep up, Transportation Alternatives predicts, 2022 will be an even deadlier year than 2021, which already broke records for deadly car crashes in the city. If 2022 surpasses 2021, it “will be the first year since 1990 that New York City has seen four consecutive years of increasing fatalities.”
Transportation Alternatives’ analysis includes a few key takeaways. The biggest increases in deadly motor vehicle accidents were in Queens, where deaths rose 125% over the same period last year, and in Manhattan, where deaths rose 120%. According to Transportation Alternatives, “pedestrians made up nearly half of all fatalities,” or 29 of the 59. Also increasing are deaths of people riding motorized vehicles like e-bikes and mopeds—up to 9 in the first quarter of 2022 from one in the first quarter of 2021. “These individuals are often working delivery cyclists from low-income, immigrant backgrounds,” the analysis notes, “and include Jorge Alejandro Antonio, a deliverista killed by a hit and run driver in the Bronx on March 25, 2022.”
Another takeaway: roughly one-quarter of fatalities happened on streets whose speed limits were higher than 25 miles per hour, a condition true of less than 10% of the city’s streets. Transportation Alternatives argues that the city could work to mitigate these deaths by lowering speed limits on those streets, noting that “previous efforts to lower the speed limit led to a 22 percent drop in all traffic fatalities and a more than 25 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities.” Finally, the organization’s analysis shows that “The youngest and oldest New Yorkers account for nearly four in 10 fatalities,” arguing that the city needs to do more to protect children and elderly street users.
There are several steps city and state leaders can take to mitigate the traffic violence crisis in New York City, according to Transportation Alternatives. In addition to fully funding and expanding the NYC Streets Plan, which would install “hundreds of miles of protected bike lanes” while upgrading pedestrian infrastructure and establishing car-free space, the city can fast-track its efforts to redesign 1,000 intersections to make them safer, with mechanisms like raised crosswalks and daylighting, which refers to the removal of curb parking spaces. Transportation Alternatives also urged state legislators to pass the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act, a package of bills that would, among other things, give city leaders the power to lower speed limits.
“Our leaders must take steps immediately to save New Yorkers and prevent this year from turning into another record-breaking year for traffic fatalities,” Transportation Alternatives’ Executive Director Danny Harris said in a statement. “The Mayor must include the City Council’s $3.1 billion ask to fund the NYC Streets Plan in the City’s final budget, while working with DOT to fast-track redesigns of dangerous corridors and redesign 1,000 intersections. Finally, Albany must grant New York City home rule over traffic safety so we can make immediate use of the lifesaving effectiveness of our existing red light and speed safety camera programs. In this time of crisis, New York City needs more groundbreakings — not vigils.”