While Mayor de Blasio campaigns for President, one of his signature accomplishments may be unraveling back in New York. According to AM New York, there has been an eye-wateringly high 30 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2019 compared to the previous year. After years of declining traffic fatalities, Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” program appears to be reversing its progress. Overall, 65 traffic deaths have been recorded this year – an increase from 50 at this point last year. According to the NYPD, driver error – which includes distracted driving and failure to yield – accounted for 77 percent of traffic fatalities.
Bicycling in the city is becoming more dangerous. So far this year, six bicyclists have been killed on New York City roads. Only 10 cyclists died in all of 2018. Speaking to the local news station, Jacob Ouillette, said “When I ride my bike it’s free transportation; free exercise and it’s carbon-free. It’s three wins in one – the only downside is I might get killed.” Fatalities were concentrated in geographic areas, too. According to the local news station, northern Queens and southern Brooklyn saw the highest increase in traffic fatalities.
The reason for the sharp uptick in traffic fatalities is not completely known. While the country has experienced an increase in traffic deaths – largely attributed to distracted driving – New York has bucked the trend over the past five years as it re-engineered its roadways, lowered speed limits, and increased traffic enforcement. AM New York offered several possible explanations. First, New York’s Vision Zero program has picked all of its “low hanging fruit” when it comes to increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Now, the city must pursue new safety policies and aggressively implement current safety plans if it wants the number of pedestrian deaths to decline. A second possible explanation for the uptick in deaths can be attributed to changing traffic enforcement priorities by the NYPD. According to the New York Post, police officers are choosing to ticket misbehaving cyclists instead of vehicles. According to the NYPD, traffic citations issued to bicyclists increased 13 percent since last year.
Finally, and perhaps most consequentially, the newspapers lay the blame on Mayor de Blasio who is apparently too busy touting Vision Zero in Iowa to implement the life-saving program in New York. Cycling activists say the Mayor has lost focus and pushed for a more aggressive response to the uptick in deaths at City Hall. Since Vision Zero’s goal is reducing traffic fatalities to zero by 2024, Mayor de Blasio would be wise to heed this advice.
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