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NYC Vision Zero: Activists Question City Plan to Reduce Traffic Deaths

NYC Vision Zero: Activists Question City Plan to Reduce Traffic Deaths

In July, New York safety advocates staged a “die-in” in Washington Square Park to raise awareness about the dangers bicyclists face on busy NYC roads, and to honor the memory of 15 cyclists killed in the first seven months of 2019. Since then, a number of smaller vigils and community awareness events have been held, including those commemorating the lives of four additional cyclists tragically killed in New York City.

While vigils and events are crucial to raising awareness, the continued rise of fatal crash rates is beginning to take its toll on activists – many of whom are frustrated by the lack of progress and City support needed to address such a serious problem.

Now, advocates are now turning their attention to New York’s Vision Zero plan, and the need for lawmakers to implement more radical changes to keep their promise of eradicating all traffic deaths in the coming years.

New York’s Vision Zero

“Vision Zero” is a lofty NYC safety program created by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Department of Transportation. Although it aims to eliminate all traffic deaths Citywide by the year 2024, rates of fatal motor vehicle and cycling deaths have remained high throughout NYC five years after its launch.

Now, activists are asking what the future holds for Vision Zero.

To provide answers, the Department of Transportation recently released its Green Wave safety plan outlining the agency’s priorities for Vision Zero moving forward. The plan focuses extensively on protecting cyclists, and proposes solutions that include:

  • Increased implementation of protected bike lanes;
  • Improvements in traffic and truck enforcement;
  • Increased adoption of speed cameras;
  • Updates to street design;
  • New legislation and policies that better protect cyclists.

While the new promises are welcomed, many advocates say they simply don’t go far enough. In fact, some suggest the Mayor’s bicycle safety plan does little to imagine a City without motorists and the immense dangers they pose to riders and pedestrians – especially as recent DOT reports indicate a sharp increase in the number of New Yorkers who travel by bike, more tourists and locals utilize the Citi Bike program, and society at large shifts toward sustainable commuting.

The Future of Vision Zero

In the five years since NYC began its Vision Zero plan, it has utilized data to identify and prioritize streets and intersections in need of redesigns, and has spearheaded the installation of over 80 miles of bike lanes.

In the face of rising fatal bicycle accident rates, however, the approach is not providing the level of protections riders need. For activists, the future of Vision Zero requires more decisive action, particularly when it comes to bolstering lane redesign and bike lane creation with aggressive policies that replace motor vehicles with safer and better-connected street networks.

Broader, sustainable strategies, advocates say, will be key to the future of Vision Zero, and to a New York City that truly paves the way for improved cyclist safety. In a city dominated by motor vehicles, and a 140-year history of poor bicyclist safety policies, only time will tell how whether officials step up to implement a more sweeping approach – and whether such efforts will be effective in protecting lives.

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