At City Hall, Advocates Call on Mayoral Candidates to Tackle Street Safety

In the wake of a string of pedestrian fatalities, more than 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning at an event organized by Transportation Alternatives to demand that mayoral candidates step up to address street safety.

“Every 36 hours, a New Yorker dies in traffic,” TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said. In 60 percent of fatal crashes, drivers are breaking the law, White added, and most fatalities occur on major arterial streets. “Bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands — all these safety improvements are not negotiable,” White said. “They’re not some window dressing. They’re not some flair. These are life-saving improvements.”

There were 451 pedestrian fatalities in New York City from 2009 to 2011, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool told the crowd. “By 2014, we are on target to match that number, and we shouldn’t be,” she said, adding that traffic is the top cause of death for New York City children and number two for seniors. “Enough is enough.”

Greg Thompson, whose sister Renee was killed by a truck driver last week, joined his aunt and cousin at today’s demonstration. “I’m certainly going to miss my little sister,” he said. “It’s devastating.” After the event, he said that his sister’s death has changed the way he feels when crossing the street. “I am really afraid of the sound of cars now,” he said, noting that the family has not received a copy of the crash report from NYPD. “It’s something that I really didn’t think too hard about before.”

While the city’s transportation engineers have made safety a much higher priority in recent years, the same can’t be said of the NYPD. “It used to be that people thought this was an intractable problem. Streets are the way they are; people are going to die in traffic. It’s just life in the big city. DOT has proven otherwise,” White said. “We have yet to achieve that realization with our NYPD.” White said the belief that the police department is impervious to change is “unacceptable” and called on mayoral candidates to make NYPD reform part of their street safety agendas. “They’re the boss of the city and they’re the boss of the police department,” he said.

City Council member and public advocate candidate Tish James was the only elected official at today’s event. “I really want to focus on the next police commissioner,” she said, adding that the public advocate’s office can draw attention to the need for improved crash investigations, issue performance audits, and conduct a precinct-by-precinct analysis of traffic enforcement.

Vanterpool thanked elected officials for the city’s recently-approved speed camera program. “That is one measure in a tool kit. Street safety need not end there,” she said, highlighting a transportation platform that street safety advocates, community groups, and environmental organizations are asking the mayoral candidates to support.

TA Deputy Director Noah Budnick told Streetsblog that the group will release the results of its mayoral candidate survey next week. “It’s clear that traffic safety is an issue that you must have positions on to run for mayor,” he said.

  • chris

    Why has nothing been done about 3rd Avenue in Manhattan? It’s as wide as 7 lanes! No one-way street should be 7 lanes wide. 5 lanes should be the max. Take away the two west-most lanes and make a two-way protected cycle track.

  • Bronxite

    I wish 3rd Ave would get extended sidewalks with benches and significant Greenspace. Sort of like the Park Ave and Broadway medians but on the sidewalk.

  • Eric McClure

    Sorry I couldn’t be there today, but glad to see so many familiar faces in the very large crowd. Thanks for picking up for me.

  • Anonymous

    Time to make it two way

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

De Blasio’s Budget Has No Funding Increase for Street Safety Projects

|
Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget yesterday, and it does not include the increases for street safety projects that the City Council recommended earlier this month, says Transportation Alternatives. Without more funding for street redesigns, TA says, the administration won’t be able to improve safety at the pace needed to attain the mayor’s stated goal of eliminating traffic […]

DOT Called Out for Lacking Clear Ped Safety Plan

|
While acknowledging that casualties have dropped overall in recent years, safety advocates and government officials are calling on the DOT to establish measurable benchmarks for further reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths in the city, and want the agency to get moving on relatively minor improvements that would help meet those goals. At a hearing of […]

Advocates Ask City Council to Fully Fund Vision Zero Street Improvements

|
If the city hopes to dramatically decrease the number of traffic fatalities in New York City, DOT needs more resources to redesign the city’s most dangerous corridors and intersections. That’s the message 70 members of Transportation Alternatives brought to the City Council yesterday, meeting with 21 council members or their staff. “We are calling on the council to increase funding and watchdog […]

TA Report: Reckless Driving Casualties Rising as NYPD Enforcement Lags

|
Transportation Alternatives today released a troubling report on the state of local traffic enforcement, and called on Mayor Bloomberg to establish a new office tasked with reining in dangerous drivers and reducing fatalities and injuries on city streets. "Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety" [PDF], compiled from official data along with testimony from […]

TA: City Hall’s Spending Decisions Are Limiting Life-Saving Street Designs

|
Transportation Alternatives says the de Blasio administration’s failure to fully fund Vision Zero street improvements is limiting the number of split-phase traffic signals DOT can install to prevent collisions at dangerous intersections. In June, 30-year-old cyclist Olga Cook was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who made a right turn across the Hudson River Greenway at Chambers Street, one […]