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.

  • BBnet3000

    Where are these fabled De Blasio/Trottenberg protected bike lanes? Certainly not in Midtown, which Bloomberg/Sadik-Khan skipped.

  • AnoNYC

    As a cyclist, one of the most dangerous things about Westchester and Jackson Avenues are northeast bound drivers turning right onto east bound East 156th Street from the inside lane. There should be a physical separation along the elevated track’s supports that prevents this from occurring. It’s too easy to get sideswiped. Another problem is an enormous, but useless painted buffer area at this location. Vehicles can drive right over it. Make it a plaza with raised curbs or bollards.

    Also, please fix Westchester Avenue@East 163rd Street. It’s the very worst of them all.

    And whatever happened to the street closure@Westchester and Close Avenues?

  • Jeff

    The fact that the treatment for Amsterdam Ave is labeled a “road diet” in the same list in which another street is explicitly called out for “bike lanes” makes me a bit nervous. I guess we’ll have yet another street with generously-sized double-parking-lanes in the Upper West Side?

  • Reader

    QUIET. One must not say the word “bike” for fear of sounding the alarm to community boards afraid of losing parking spaces.

  • qrt145

    There was no “dramatic jump” in the number of cyclist deaths in the last year. It was just a random fluctuation perfectly within the range that has been observed over the last 14 years (the numbers can be found in the figure in Streetsblog’s previous post about this topic).

    It is astonishing how close to flat the trend is, and how close to zero the correlation coefficient. Everything is consistent with absolutely no change over the last 14 years: we see an average of 18 deaths, with a standard deviation of 4. That means that there’s a 95% probability that any given year we’ll see between 10 and 26 deaths. And in fact, all 14 years fall within this range.

    The good news is that since cycling in the city has increased considerably, the relative risk has actually decreased considerably as well.

    I’ll start thinking we may be getting results towards a Vision Zero for cyclists when we see a year where fewer than 10 cyclists are killed on our streets.

  • Kevin Love

    Where’s Bratton?

    NYPD officers have just demonstrated that actually working is optional. Why should Bratton be any different?

  • Maggie

    I noticed that too. CB7 went through a long process on this more than a year ago, before requesting DOT to do a complete streets study that would include bike lanes. I’m extremely disappointed with Polly Trottenberg’s DOT’s cavalier attitude towards putting cyclists in harm’s way, but this community board has heard significant support and pleas for a safe bike lane up Amsterdam Ave. If DOT comes back with no bike infrastructure, in lieu of a double-wide parking lane for the Fresh Direct trucks, it would be a complete misreading of what the community asked for. This was discussed practically to death. There is strong and deep local support for the Amsterdam Ave bike lane.

  • Mat50

    Where’s Bratton? Hopefully charging Cy Vance for theft of services.

  • Maggie

    Also, huge thank you to de Blasio for finally speaking up on this again. I so appreciate it. We need leadership and a lot of sunlight on this issue, plus lots more prodding for the DAs. More please, BDB.

  • Kevin Love

    Data? Facts? Obviously you are not in politics.

  • Liz Patek

    I agree that with the increased number of people on bikes that overall safety has increased for those of us who ride. But I am deeply troubled by the lack of commitment I’ve witnessed so far from DOT towards the inclusion of robust bicycle infrastructure in Vision Zero (and yes, I distinctly mean protected bike lanes on arterials). I had a client with a chronic condition and a past injury that made it difficult to lose weight. She knew I rode to go everywhere. Any time she expressed interest, I would gently encourage her to give it a try. She is a very risk averse person, so when Citibike was ready to launch and she told me she had signed up for an annual membership, I was ecstatic and surprised. She started to commute by Citibike on the nicer days and was really enjoying it – she planned her routes only using avenues that had protected lanes and a minimum of cross-town streets with Class 2 or no bike lanes. A few months after the launch, she told me she stopped because she had an encounter where a taxi driver got too aggressive nearly hit her in a bike lane as she approached a red light. She said she didn’t feel safe riding on her own anymore and would only continue to utilize Citibike when she could stick to the WSG or when her fiancé could ride with her. I offered to ride with her on her evening or morning commutes anytime my schedule would allow it, to give her support and share my knowledge of many decades riding our streets – and though she was a client, I offered this to her as a friend. I just wanted to give courage to one more person to continue riding independently for transportation. She was grateful, but adverse to my offer and adamant in her decision that she didn’t feel safe. I share this story because this I know there are more people out there with stories similar to hers. I have friends that honestly want to try commuting by bicycle, but they are simply too afraid. THESE are the people that DOT and Vision Zero need to be thinking about as they continue to implement physical changes needed to make our streets safer. Safety in numbers is great. We know it works. But without true sustainable safety, we’re losing the biggest and best addition to the number of cyclists on our streets – the “curious but concerned”.

  • qrt145

    Of course I’m not! 🙂

  • AnoNYC

    What ever happened to the neighborhood “Slow Zones” program?

  • millerstephen

    The program is continuing; the mayor’s release noted “five new neighborhood ‘slow zones’ lowering speeds on residential streets in Norwood, Clinton Hill, Alphabet City, Brownsville, and Jackson Heights.” It’s important to note that some Slow Zones have been stalled or downsized in the face of community board opposition.

  • ahwr

    Weren’t those from the 2013 application under Bloomberg?

  • millerstephen

    Yes, at the end of his term Bloomberg laid out a list of Slow Zones to be implemented through 2016: http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/10/11/as-council-considers-requiring-school-speed-humps-dot-doubles-slow-zones/ Because of the lead-time required for planning and construction, many of the projects spotlighted by de Blasio, including the redesign of East Tremont and Silver Street where he took his photo op for this press conference, were initiated under the previous administration.

  • SteveVaccaro

    I agree. Each cyclist’s death is so that important, and needs to be investigated and mourned and (family willing) a focus for our Vision Zero movement. But when looking at success metrics, we need to be more sophisticated. Cycling is up, deaths are statistically flat, things are marginally safer. We need to do better.

  • Andres Dee

    What seems to be missing from Vision Zero, yet seems so simple and elementary, is that the city needs to get the message out that:

    1. The law already gives priority in crosswalks to people walking over cars (we need 2 of these messages to every “cross carefully/don’t jaywalk”).
    2. Cyclists have rights to the road, whether or not there’s a bike lane. They’re allowed on every street and are entitled to the lane. They’re not obligated to brush the parked cars just because motorists expect it. Again, 2 of these to every “ride smart” message.

    3. At the very least, zero tolerance for convicted DUIs. No interlocks. No exemption for work. No DUI school. You drink? You ride the bus. No bus? Tough.

  • Steve O’Neill

    I did this calculation for pedestrian fatalities too, and found that the decrease in ped deaths for 2014 was not stastically relevant either.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RuaS88VS7PTcVbgiyX3bnm2qHTsaDpaTHW_BwF5lLtQ/edit#gid=0

    (Feedback encouraged.)

  • qrt145

    The case of pedestrian fatalities is different, because there there is an actual trend, as you can see if you make a plot and compute the correlation. But the reason last year’s jump was so huge was that 2013 was a bit of an outlier, with a much higher number than would be expected according to the long-term trend. The number for 2014 was actually pretty close to what would be expected according to the trend of the last 14 years.

    I do believe there is a slow and steady progress of maybe 3 fewer pedestrian deaths each year, but of course there is statistical noise in any given year so one-year jumps don’t say much. And of course it is almost inevitable that in the next two or three years will see an increase relative to the previous year, and then people will be screaming that Vision Zero doesn’t work… (Any given year has only slightly higher than 50% chance of fewer fatalities than the preceding year, because the trend is small compared to the statistical noise.)

    Of course if Vision Zero works, the trend should accelerate, but we won’t know for sure until several years have passed.

  • Steve O’Neill

    Makes perfect sense. Thank you kindly for that reply.

  • BlackCrimesMatter

    Vision zero is a scam

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