Trottenberg: To Reach Vision Zero Goals, DOT Will Need More Resources

After unveiling its pedestrian safety action plan for Queens yesterday, DOT released plans for Manhattan and the Bronx today. (Staten Island will come tomorrow, followed by Brooklyn.) The reports each follow the same pattern, identifying problem areas in depth but describing solutions in general terms. It’s clears from the sheer mileage of streets in need of safety improvements that the current pace of change is not nearly enough to achieve the city’s Vision Zero goals.

Priority intersections, corridors and areas identified by DOT.
Priority intersections, corridors and areas identified by DOT for Manhattan. Map: DOT [PDF]
“I feel like there is a lot of interest in the things we’re doing, but we are at capacity right now in terms of the folks we need to go out to communities, to do the planning, to make sure that we’re having a great dialogue with elected officials and with the public,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said after today’s press conference for the Manhattan plan. “We really have to think about being a bigger agency than we are right now.”

Ultimately, Trottenberg deferred to City Hall, which she said has been “terrific on resources” for Vision Zero. “It’s not up to me,” she said. “It’s a discussion with the administration about all the city’s priorities.”

Here are a few more takeaways from the reports on Manhattan [PDF] and the Bronx [PDF]:

Age matters. Seniors make up 14 percent of Manhattan’s population but account for 41 percent of its pedestrian fatalities. In the Bronx, younger adults are particularly at risk: 18 percent of pedestrian deaths are people age 18 to 29, compared to just 10 percent citywide.

The challenge of speed cam placement under Albany’s restrictions. In its borough pedestrian safety reports, DOT says it will locate speed enforcement cameras on streets identified as “priority corridors.” That might be harder than it sounds: Albany regulations restrict speed cameras to streets that have school entrances within a quarter-mile — and only during school hours. “In a lot of parts of the city, particularly in Manhattan, you’re most likely to see speeding at night. And that’s a challenge,” Trottenberg said. “We’re going to do our best.”

Stepping up Manhattan’s lax speeding enforcement. Patrol Borough Manhattan South Chief Salvatore Comodo said that his precincts increased speeding summonses more than 156 percent last year. Manhattan South, however, still issues far fewer speeding tickets than other parts of the city. Streetsblog asked if that’s enough. “As far as the activity goes, we’ll take a hard look at that,” Comodo said. “We’ll focus our efforts in places where we think there are going to be violations, and we’ll take it from there. There’s always room for improvement, and we’ll look to step that up this year.”

Studying bicyclists and motorcyclists: Of the 250 traffic fatalities citywide in 2014, 20 were bicyclists and 37 were motorcyclists. Trottenberg again promised to produce an update to the city’s landmark multi-agency 2006 study of cyclist fatalities [PDF], and will be launching a similar investigation into the causes of New York City motorcyclist deaths. (Chief Comodo and Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, when asked about preventing motorcyclist deaths, focused on ticketing illegal motorbike users, a consistent complaint of Upper Manhattan residents.)

DOT’s Vision Zero priorities in the Bronx. Map: NYC DOT [PDF]
Can toll reform help Vision Zero? Truck drivers cause a quarter of Manhattan pedestrian fatalities, more than double the citywide share of 12 percent. Reforming the region’s toll system would reduce the number of Manhattan-bound cars and keep trucks on highways instead of local Manhattan streets. Not coincidentally, DOT’s pedestrian safety “priority areas” in Manhattan are almost entirely below 60th Street. “Clearly, there’s no question when you look at our map, it shows you where the density and the congestion and the pedestrians are in Manhattan,” Trottenberg said, adding that it’s “too soon” to express an opinion about the connection between street safety and the Move NY toll reform plan, which was released yesterday.

Ultimately, the borough pedestrian safety reports will be a useful tool for communities that want DOT to make changes to improve street safety. “We really want people to have this information, to have this conversation,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo, “even if at times that’s a little bit uncomfortable for us.”

  • com63

    Forget speeding enforcement in Lower Manhattan, just have the police focus on failure to yield. Stand at any major intersection, especially those with two way streets like 14th st and 3rd ave and you will see dozens of failure to yields every hour.

  • Kevin Love

    This article contains an excellent example of both good and bad use of statistics in the same paragraph. I’ll start with the good.

    “Seniors make up 14 percent of Manhattan’s population but account for 41 percent of its pedestrian fatalities.”

    Good use. Fatalities are disproportionate. The system is failing seniors.

    Now the bad.

    “In the Bronx, younger adults are particularly at risk: 18 percent of pedestrian deaths are people age 18 to 29, compared to just 10 percent citywide.”

    See the problem? Without knowing the percentage of Bronx and citywide residents who are 18-29, these numbers lack context and meaning. For example, if 18% of people in the Bronx are between the ages of 18-29 and 10% of people citywide are aged 18-29 then there is no extra risk.

  • Danny G

    Are there street safety measures that work well for seniors but don’t work well for people aged 18-29? What about vice versa?

  • ahwr

    From 2013 5year ACS Bronx county 19.4% 18-29, NYC 19.3%.

    I’d like to see them break up death/KSI by age more though, because the 18-29 group city wide is older than in the bronx.

    Bronx county:

    15-19 7.9%
    18-24 11.7%
    20-24 8.4%
    25-29 7.7%


    15-19 6.2%
    18-24 10.3%
    20-24 7.7%
    25-29 9.0%

  • Kevin Love

    Yes, seniors have a higher occurrence of mobility issues so (for example) pedestrian islands are more important for this demographic.

    Another example: the graph showing car speeds vs. pedestrian death has a different curve for seniors. Their probability of death is increased at lower speeds. So measures to reduce car speeds are more important for seniors.

    I am not aware of any vice versa. And there are people of all ages that have mobility issues.

  • Kevin Love

    So the percentage of deaths vs. percentage of population for 18-29 is probably within the margin of error in the Bronx.

    So it is not that people in that demographic are particularly at risk in the Bronx, but that they are safer in the rest of the City.

  • Boogiedown

    It would be nice to see an image of the the Bronx action plan

  • Added

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I feel like there is a lot of interest in the things we’re doing, but we are at capacity right now in terms of the folks we need to go out to communities, to do the planning, to make sure that we’re having a great dialogue with elected officials and with the public.”

    If you are going to require more bureaucracy to placate the oppositionals, you are going to require more resources or do less stuff.

    Money from where? Pensions and debt service are going up. Public employee wages are going up faster than inflation. Health care costs are going up.

    Cut other services? Cut funding for the MTA?

  • BBnet3000

    Stop wasting thousands of hours of staff time on “studies” and start building out better bike infrastructure based on best practices that already exist. And talk to the stupid f’ing cops about actually enforcing keeping cars out of the bike lanes.

    Would love to see evidence that Polly rode a damn bicycle for a single hour sometime this summer as well. That goes for you too Bill, they do make them in your size. You’re both able-bodied adults as far as I can tell. If Ed Lee and Rahm Emmanuel can do it, so can you.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Defending the status quo – while pretending to fight it – one VZ press conference at a time.

  • I think Canal street needs another shade. Like double red. Or purple. It’s the worst place in Manhattan by far.

  • ddartley

    I want to get the message through to NYPD: 1. retrain your crossing guards (one of the most important jobs in the city, and one of the lowest-paid) to remind them that they are not TEAs, and accordingly should never direct traffic to proceed–the only signals they should be giving to motorists at all is to stop. (I don’t know if that’s what the actual policy is, but it should be.) And 2. retrain your TEAs, some of whom unlike crossing guards ARE officially sanctioned to direct traffic, never to direct traffic to proceed if there are any pedestrians in any crosswalk reachable by the traffic being directed.

    Of course NYPD’s ages-old protocol for assigning human agents to take over automated-control intersections while the controls are still operating (happens at loads of intersections every day) has always been stupidly negligent: they assign one or two persons to supersede the vehicle controls, but assign no one additional* to work in synch with the former to govern pedestrian traffic. So they remove all legal power of the traffic controls, but assume the work of only a few of those many controls, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. I would love to learn what, if any, the real, official protocols (and thinking behind them) are at NYPD Traffic Enforcement. Given that they assign agents to take over only the vehicle controls and leave pedestrians to fend for themselves (incidentally, while still seeing walk & dont walk signals which are NOT synched to what the agent is doing), I’m inclined to believe that there is no thinking other than “don’t let those cars get into a traffic jam! You’re there to help keep ’em moving!!” and absolutely nothing else about pedestrians or their safety. Just the 50 millionth thing I wonder why the hell is under PD and not DOT.

    Ok, rant over, but truly, can we find out what the hell Traffic Enforcement’s real, official protocols are? Might be a great target for reform.

    * the closest the city has come to ever doing this is a very very few temporary experiments with “pedestrian safety managers,” (or some title like that), but I believe they are usually private contractors hired by DOT and sent to work with the PD TEAs running vehicle traffic at certain intersections–but regrettably even in those temporary little trials DOT does not have the real power over the intersection.

  • thomas040

    I’m troubled the word “bike” or “lane” is not mentioned once…..

  • snobum

    Read the actual reports. They mention a goal of 5 lane miles of protected bike lanes per year in each borough.

  • Sean Kelliher

    Thanks for posting. I enjoy reading your comments.

    I think the police are not going to defend bike lanes. In fairness, they can’t be everywhere at once, watching over every lane. Also, culturally, it’s just doesn’t seem to be something that interests them. And, there is their weird policy that if someone is “waiting” in the bike lane (aka – sitting in his or her car) it’s no problem.

    For all these reasons, the bike infrastructure DOT creates really needs to be designed to defend itself. I’m not sure what would be best; maybe something like curbs or bollards. But the current painted lines just don’t work. I don’t think they really ever will.

  • qrt145

    But the police do seem to be everywhere at once, parking on every lane! 🙂

  • Guest
  • sbauman

    Seniors are more fragile during a collision. A collision at 20 mph is as injurious as one at 25 mph for those younger. It’s one reason I was disappointed when TA caved in on “Twenty Is Plenty.”

  • mrtuffguy

    Yes! The school near me has the most ineffectual crossing guard I’ve ever seen and your comments on TEAs are spot on.

  • BBnet3000

    That’s the goal Trottenberg had previously mentioned Citywide. Are there any at all in the pipeline right now?

  • andrelot

    This argument is preposterous. You don’t know about their health status, whether they have any medical issues that would prevent them riding bikes, whether they are not gym-fit, whether they even know how to cycle. Do you have access to all this info about them before passing judgment?

  • qrt145

    Yeah, right. Maybe they have a strong bike allergy that will give them anaphylaxis.

    You don’t need to be “gym fit” to ride a bike. That they might not know how to might be plausible, however.

  • BBnet3000

    The second part of my post was meant to kind of a joke (though it would be good PR to demonstrate support for cycling) but from your post you would think they’d need a doctor’s sign off and professional fitment to take a spin on a Citibike.

    Its not hard to see why we have the infrastructure we have and why the current safety obsession is reinforcing the car and pedestrian-only binary streetscapes of NYC when this is the sort of reply you get to suggesting someone in power actually try a bicycle.

  • andrelot

    I didn’t say that you need a doctor’s note to cycle, but it is unreasonable to demand people working with cycling to have “first hand experience”. It is like saying only pilots that can fly airplanes can work on aeronautic engineering.

  • “…it is unreasonable to demand people working with cycling to have ‘first hand experience’.”

    No, it is not at all unreasonable.

    What is unreasonable is that analogy. Piloting an airplane is a specialised skill that requires years of training, a skill which only a tiny minority of people ever attain.

    By contrast, riding a bicycle is an instinctive act that most people older than five can master with no difficulty.

  • qrt145

    1) Unlike flying planes, a very large fraction of the population can ride bikes. That makes the demand much less unreasonable.

    2) Unlike aeronautic engineers, people in charge of bike infrastructure and policy often don’t seem to have the slightest clue about what they are doing, as is quickly apparent to anyone who tries to ride a bike under the resulting infrastructure and policies.

    Put those two together and the demand seems very reasonable to me.

    The Mayor is too far removed from all of this, so who cares, except as a statement, but you did write “working with cycling”.

  • Joe R.

    People who design bike infrastructure should actually try it out. If they did they might see firsthand how awful a lot of what they design really is. As a good example, a railway engineer needs to be familiar with the capabilities of the trains which will run along a railway he/she is designing. For example, freight trains can’t deal with as steep gradients as passenger trains. And then you have different types of passenger trains. A subway/metro train is designed for many closely spaced stops, while a high-speed train isn’t.

    Applying this to bikes, there are limits on the frequency and severity of gradients which should be on bike routes but you wouldn’t know this looking at some of the “recommended” bike routes the city maps out. And there are limits on how often cyclists can start and stop but again you wouldn’t know it when we build bike routes on streets with light timing such that your average cyclist hits a red every three blocks. Like I said, if these people actually used what they designed, or at least were more familiar with the characteristics of human-powered vehicles, they might realize how awful most of what we have is. Just putting paint on a street without other changes does not a bike route make. I’ll give them a few clues-keep gradients under 2% unless they’re short, keep curves wide enough so they can be taken at 20 mph or more, and keep stopping to a minimum-preferably none but at most one stop per mile under worst-case conditions. Oh, and it goes without saying keep cars (and pedestrians) completely off the bike route. That includes police scooters.

  • Kevin Love

    Other people in leadership roles seem to be able to get around by bicycle. Here is a video of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands taking his two oldest daughters, Crown Princess Amalia and Princess Alexia out on a cargo bike:

    And His Majesty’s prime minister also rides his bike to work. See:

    I observe that people over the age of 75 take an average of two bicycle trips per week in The Netherlands. Source:

  • AnoNYC

    I would personally like to see numerous mid-block crossings. We need them here, citywide.

  • AnoNYC

    Well if anyone in the DOT is listening; how about a parking protected bicycle lane along Bronx River Avenue between Westchester Avenue and East 174th Street since the greenway gaps haven’t been closed yet. Wide street with lots of speeding. That’s a half mile right there meaning 5 miles just isn’t enough.

    Protected lanes on the Grand Course alone would soak up all 5 miles .

  • AnoNYC

    NYPD is completely ineffective in regards to speeding. We need blanket traffic camera enforcement. Would free resources for issues like failure to yield. I even think there are failure to yield cameras available.

  • TYLER 2

    This is humorous if one does the math and finds out how many lane miles there are on North-South avenues in Manhattan alone. Manhattan should be completed in about 55 years, allow extra time for union trouble along the line, lawsuits and other typical-New York slowdowns and inefficiencies and the smart money would be on about 100 years. Someone in City government needs to get serious or leave the public payroll and start writing for SNL or the Comedy Channel; with a statement like that, they’d be very qualified.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Cut the police force. When the cops went on their big pout and quit writing tickets, no body cared. Crime did not increase.

    They demonstrated that we have more cops than we need, and they are doing petty stuff like sending two squad cars and four heavily arms cops to arrest guys for selling looses.

    With a couple of thousand excess and surplus cops removed from the force, huge money would be freed up for useful services like the DOT.

  • WoodyinNYC

    If the Bronx figures are included in the citywide, then the comparison is tilted. The comparison should be Bronx to the OTHER FOUR boros. Otherwise, the higher Bronx rate raises the five boro total.

    In other words, the other four boros, with the Bronx subtracted, would have an even lower rate, making the Bronx rate even more disproportionately higher by comparison.

    Without getting into the statistics, what I took away was by the seat of my pants, or a stereotype: The Bronx has lots more kids, so speeding cars and trucks will kill more of them there.

    And I’ll hazard that Manhattan has a lower percentage of kids. Compare Bronx with Manhattan. If we want to save the lives of kids, more effort is needed in the Bronx.


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