Can Vision Zero Survive NYC’s Tabloid Editorial Boards?

New mayor. New DOT commissioner. Same old myopic Daily News editorial board.

The opinion writers who spent four years undermining the implementation of safer street designs want “clear and transparent data” from Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Good idea, right? But when the data is right under their noses, they’re still not satisfied.

In a piece that’s ostensibly about holding the city to its traffic safety targets, the Daily News opinion team is still complaining about the Midtown pedestrian plazas on Broadway, which cut pedestrian injuries by 35 percent along the project area. Why? Because the city went ahead and made the safer design permanent, even though, according to the News, data on “average traffic flow rates” didn’t support the initial rationale for the project.

Except they’re wrong — average traffic speeds did increase, according to millions of taxi trips measured with GPS units. All the major nuances in the data (southbound traffic did slow down a tad) are captured in the city’s summary report [PDF].

The Daily News also still has beef with bike lanes, with their unequivocally positive safety record, and Citi Bike, which has recently been opening up all manner of data about bike-share trips.

Meanwhile, the data that street safety advocates really want to see opened up in standard, transparent format — NYPD’s crash information — doesn’t get a mention from the Daily News.

Open data is an absolute necessity for the public to assess policy and hold government accountable. But when the numbers are staring you in the face and you still insist on more data before taking action, maybe you just don’t want things to change. The Daily News opinion page is, after all, the same opinion page that fell back on the “more data” mantra when it called for the city to slow down on the 34th Street separated transitway, which the city abandoned soon after.

Eliminating traffic deaths is an ambitious goal that will require massive change — including more transformative street redesigns than the 34th Street transitway. Can the city make it happen if tabloid opinion writers are pushing against it every step of the way?

  • Kevin Love

    How about a transparent measurement of the deaths and injuries caused in New York by car drivers’ lethal cancer pollution? There exists one for the City of Toronto:

    440 people poisoned and killed by car drivers every year.

    1,700 people poisoned by car drivers and injured so seriously they have to be hospitalized.

    1,200 acute bronchitis episodes in children due to being poisoned by car drivers.

    68,000 asthma symptom days in children due to being poisoned by car drivers.

    Source:

    http://www.smartcommutetoronto.ca/media/uploads/TPH%202007%20Rerpot%20-%20air_pollution_burden.pdf

    So where are the numbers for New York? The scientific methodology used does not look that difficult to repeat for New York. The harm done to children by being poisoned is truly heart-breaking.

    Car drivers poison and kill over four times as many people as they crush and kill. If we really want transparency, then that far greater threat is what we should be tracking.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Very well-written Ben! It’s interesting how the Daily News ed board has proven more die-hard in its resistance to livable streets than the Post’s.

  • Maybe the Post is just hibernating. They’ve run some really good Nicole Gelinas pieces on their opinion pages but the editorial board, whoever that is, hasn’t really said much about street safety since de Blasio got to City Hall.

  • Tabloid watcher

    Streetsblog should allow Josh Greenman some space to support his editorial and debate Ben’s take. I doubt he’d do it, but it would be interesting to learn what he’s thinking other than just “page views.”

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