More Vision Zero Action Ahead in 2015, Says De Blasio, But Where’s Bratton?

Mayor de Blasio trumpeted last year’s street safety gains, including a record low number of pedestrian deaths, at a press conference in the Bronx this morning marking the first year of his administration’s Vision Zero initiative. He also announced new street redesign projects for 2015 and defended Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has not spoken at a public Vision Zero event in 11 months.

On the enforcement side, speed cameras have been a central component of Vision Zero. The city has installed 59 cameras and plans to roll out the full 140 allowed by Albany by the end of 2015. Since the start of last year, the cameras have issued 445,000 summonses resulting in $16.96 million in fines. De Blasio said he wanted to drive that number, like the number of fatalities, to zero. “We want less business,” he said. “We would love to get less revenue.”

Following the pattern established by the city’s red light camera program, it looks like speed cameras will indeed deliver more compliance and fewer fines. The number of citations from the city’s 19 fixed-location cameras dropped by 59 percent from September to December as drivers got used to regular enforcement. And awareness of the city’s speed limit increased from 28 percent in October to 60 percent in December, according to DOT polling, after the limit was changed from 30 to 25 miles per hour on November 7 and the city launched an educational campaign. Two-thirds of the 450 New Yorkers polled for DOT by Penn Schoen Berland were regular drivers.

De Blasio said he will have an announcement “quite shortly” about his Vision Zero agenda in Albany this legislative session. Although Republicans regained complete control of the State Senate after de Blasio campaigned against them, he pointed out that speed cameras enjoyed wide bipartisan support last year. “I’ll be testifying in Albany,” he said. “I remain optimistic about matters of safety.”

The city announced today that its street redesign priorities for this year will include Queens Boulevard, Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn, the intersection of Jackson and Westchester Avenues in the Bronx, bike lanes on Staten Island’s Clove Road, and a road diet for Amsterdam Avenue in Northern Manhattan. De Blasio paid particular attention to Queens Boulevard. “It’s probably the most notorious in this city in terms of pedestrian deaths,” he said. “We’re going to bring Queens Boulevard into the twenty-first century.”

“We are going to be taking a very expansive look at what we can do there. Everything is on the table,” Trottenberg said of Queens Boulevard, mentioning the service drives as areas with great possibility. “This is where we want to showcase some very innovative ideas.”

Later in the press conference, de Blasio hit his marks when a reporter asked if speed humps, which are installed on side streets after sign-off from FDNY and NYPD, are hurting emergency response times. “If we could avoid the car crash, if we could avoid a pedestrian being hit to begin with, then emergency vehicles wouldn’t have to come,” de Blasio said. “We put those in, after careful study, to save lives to begin with.”

Notably absent from today’s press conference was Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has left all public Vision Zero appearances since early last year to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. When Streetsblog asked about his absence, de Blasio said Bratton has a “real passion” for Vision Zero. “He, in all of our conversations, focuses on this as something that has become increasingly important to the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “I just want to set the record straight. There’s a lot of commitment there.”

Chan said that Bratton has given him more manpower, connected him with traffic enforcement experts in other cities, and is in touch with his other agency commissioners about Vision Zero. “He’s constantly updated and we speak about the subject,” Chan said. “The commissioner’s finger is definitely in the pie of Vision Zero… He may not physically be here today, but he’s definitely, in terms of his support, he’s been there with us.”

The most prominent mention of bicycling came not from de Blasio or Trottenberg but from Public Advocate Letitia James, who voiced her support for bike lanes and bike-share in prepared remarks.

When a reporter asked about the dramatic jump in bicyclist deaths last year, Trottenberg said DOT is “not happy” with the increase and is looking into the factors behind it while continuing to improve safety by building protected bike lanes.

De Blasio praised the advocacy of Families For Safe Streets, which has recently trained its focus on the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the city’s district attorneys. Streetsblog asked de Blasio if he had a message for the DMV or the DAs.

“There’s been some real progress made, certainly some of the legislation that passed the city council, for example, to get to real consequences for motorists who do this to other people,” de Blasio said. “So my message to everyone — state government, the DAs, everyone — is we all have to work in concert to create an atmosphere where people don’t speed, don’t break the law, don’t drive recklessly. And if they do, there will be real and consistent consequences.”

This story has been updated with additional information from DOT on its polling of New Yorkers’ knowledge of the speed limit and to correct the section of Amsterdam Avenue where a road diet is planned. It is in Northern Manhattan, not on the Upper West Side.

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