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Vision Zero: De Blasio Administration Announces New Crackdown on Dangerous Driving During the Holidays and Lower Speed Limit on Two of Brooklyn's Busiest Streets

December 23, 2019

Expanded enforcement during holidays; new 25 MPH speed limit along Third and Hamilton Avenues in Brooklyn 

NEW YORK—Today, de Blasio Administration officials came together in Queens to announce increased traffic enforcement during the holiday season, and that the City will lower the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH along Third and Hamilton Avenues in Brooklyn starting next month. The period around Christmas and New Year’s Day, the darkest days of the year, has also generally been among the deadliest of the year on city streets. Officials also issued an update on traffic fatality trends for 2019: despite setbacks, this year is on track to conclude as the second-safest in New York City’s recorded history.

“While we’ve made tremendous progress over the past six years with Vision Zero, there is still undoubtedly more work to do to make our streets safer,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The recent traffic fatalities have made us even more determined to keep Vision Zero moving forward. We’re increasing our traffic enforcement efforts and lowering the speed limit on two of Brooklyn’s busiest streets to ensure that all New Yorkers arrive home safely for the holidays.”

“Any life lost is a tragedy, and while we continue to build off the progress from Vision Zero, this year’s challenges reminded us of the work still to be done,” said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin. “During this final week of 2019, which has historically proven to be one of the most dangerous times of the year, we will be cracking down on dangerous drivers so that everyone can get home to their families for the holidays.”

The Administration, in response to the recent 6 traffic fatalities, announced expanded enforcement efforts, both via the NYPD and through automated enforcement.

  • Dusk and Darkness, cont’d: The period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, among the darkest weeks of the year, is also usually among the deadliest of the year for pedestrians.  In 2018, five people – including four pedestrians—were killed from December 23 to 31. This coming week, as part of its Dusk and Darkness campaign, NYPD will be expanding their enforcement efforts to ensure the streets are safe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
  • Expanded Truck Enforcement: With increasing number of crashes in 2019 involving cyclists and pedestrians being struck by trucks, the NYPD has increased enforcement against commercial trucks to ensure these vehicles are following all traffic laws.
  • A Safer 25 MPH speed limit on Third Avenue and Hamilton Avenue in Brooklyn: Following 6 fatalities in 2019, DOT will lower the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH along Third Avenue from Prospect Ave to 62nd St (2.3 miles), and Hamilton Ave from Luquer St to 18th St (1.9 miles), in January 2020.
  •  More life-saving speed cameras: After a new and stronger speed camera law was enacted in Albany and took effect on July 11th, DOT has continued its unprecedented expansion of cameras.  As 2019 ends, DOT has 364 camera zones now in operation, up from 140 at the beginning of 2019, and will expand cameras at a pace of 60 zones per month in the coming year. The agency is on pace to meet the Mayor’s goal of reaching each of the law’s maximum 750 school zones by next summer.

“We had a difficult and challenging year under Vision Zero, and as 2019 comes to a close, we want to make sure that this holiday season is a joyous and safe one for all New Yorkers,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “We have grieved at the loss of life on our streets this year, particularly along Third Avenue, which has seen six fatalities this year as opposed to two in 2018. The Mayor has asked DOT and NYPD to take aggressive action on this corridor with its challenging mix of residential and industrial uses and heavy traffic on and off the Gowanus Expressway. We believe that lowering the speed limit along Third and Hamilton Avenues, coupled with strong enforcement, will help calm traffic in the burgeoning neighborhoods of Gowanus, Red Hook and Sunset Park.  In 2020, DOT will also install additional roadway engineering and capital improvements to help make this challenging corridor even safer.”

“As the start of 2020 approaches, the NYPD renews its commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from dangerous driving behaviors,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation William Morris. “The vision of New York as a city where all members of the community, and particularly bicyclists and pedestrians, can use roads safely without the threat of death or injury remains as compelling as ever.  We will continue to work closely with our Vision Zero partners to ensure the successful implementation of the Green Wave Plan.”

Administration officials today also noted the notable Vision Zero trends of 2019:

  • Traffic fatalities increased for first time since Vision Zero began in 2014, but 2019 will likely be New York City’s second safest year: As of December 22, traffic fatalities are now at 215, more than the 203 recorded in all of 2018, New York City’s safest-ever year – with a year-to-year rise in fatalities of below 10 percent.  Under current trends, 2019 is likely to end as the second-safest year in the City’s recorded history.  Six of the seven safest years for traffic fatalities have occurred since New York City became the first American city to institute Vision Zero in 2014.
  • Pedestrian deaths in NYC continue to hold steady, but more SUVs/light trucks on the road create challenges: After a dramatic decline in pedestrian fatalities two years ago (when fatalities fell from 148 in 2016 to 108 in 2017), NYC pedestrian fatalities have remained at about the same level: 117 as of December 22 compared to 115 in all of 2018.  Nationally, pedestrian fatalities have risen every year for the last decade, a change that has been partially attributed to the increased share of SUVs/light trucks, which are deadlier to pedestrians and cyclists in crashes.  This year, DOT released new data showing that the share of deadly crashes involving SUVs/light trucks rose from 40% in 2013-17 to 46% since the start of 2018.
  • Cyclist deaths were up, but motorcyclist deaths were down: After a record-low year for bicycle fatalities in 2018 (10 fatalities), bicycling deaths in New York City increased in 2019 by the largest margin of any travel mode.  To date this year, 28 cyclists have been killed, the most of any year since 1999.  Meanwhile, motorcyclist fatalities have declined from 40 last year to 25 so far this year.
  • Sharp increase in Brooklyn cyclist fatalities: Of the 28 cyclist deaths in 2019, 17 happened in Brooklyn.  In 2018, Brooklyn saw only 2 cyclist fatalities.
  • Borough breakdown: safest-year ever in the Bronx: The Bronx saw the safest year in its recorded history, with 27 fatalities thus far in 2019, compared to 38 last year. (Its previous record low was 32 in 2007.) Staten Island, which had its safest-ever year last year (with 7 fatalities) has seen its second-safest year in 2019 with 8 fatalities thus far.  In Manhattan and Queens, fatality trends were largely unchanged, with only Brooklyn seeing a notable increase.

Agency officials also pointed today to a number of major initiatives undertaken by Vision Zero Task Force agencies in 2019:

  • Major projects for pedestrians: Noting the increased fatalities of the last few weeks, DOT has committed to studying and addressing immediate safety fixes along corridors and at intersections where those traffic fatalities occurred. Other streets have been identified for major safety upgrades in the next year are Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard, both identified for safety upgrades in the updated Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans, released by the Mayor last February. Meanwhile, the new Glacier Rock Pedestrian Space in Long Island City is among dozens of projects that DOT undertook in 2019 that offer safety benefits to pedestrians. Other major successful projects in 2019, some in partnership with NYPD, included new-shared streets in downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan; the expansion of pedestrian space along 8th Avenue in Midtown and the increased pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center for the holiday season. 
  • Green Wave, making cycling safer: In July, in response to the upturn in cyclist fatalities, the de Blasio Administration released its Green Wave plan to dramatically expand cycling infrastructure.  DOT crews had installed 21.4 miles of new protected bike lanes (PBLs) for 2019, including the Administration’s 100th PBL mile along Fountain Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. Under the Green Wave and with the enactment of the Safe Streets Master Plan, DOT expects to install 60 additional miles of protected bike lanes by the end of 2021 (30 miles in each of the next two years) – increasing the size of New York City’s on-street protected bike lane network by 60%.  Among major protected bike lane projects completed in 2019: Central Park West, 11th Avenue, 52nd and 55th Streets in Manhattan; 4th Avenue and 7th Avenue in Brooklyn; and Willis Avenue in the Bronx.  For the first time during UN General Assembly week in September, the NYPD and DOT also partnered to maintain uninterrupted PBL access along First and Second Avenues.
  • Better Buses: As part of the Administration’s Better Buses plan, DOT made street improvements that improve bus speeds, but those changes have also been shown to increase safety for all street users.  Among the major projects undertaken in 2019 were Manhattan’s 14th Street busway, as well as Brooklyn’s Church Avenue and Fresh Pond Road in Queens, congested streets where new bus lanes were added.
  • Safe Fleet Transition Plan: DCAS is purchasing vehicles with improved safety features, including automatic braking, back-up cameras, driver alerts, designs that improve driver visibility, heated mirrors, and other technologies that monitor speeding and instances of reckless driving. DCAS also leads the country in installing side-guards, barriers that prevent vehicles and cyclists from sliding under large trucks during side-impact collisions. To date, 2,700 vehicles have been equipped with side-guards and more are being added every day.
  • TLC: The TLC connected drivers and bicyclists in its first Bike Ride and Discussion event this June. Drivers rode on Citi Bikes through Brooklyn with cyclist advocates, followed by a discussion of the experience, challenges they encountered, and safe ways to share the road. In addition, the TLC distributed over 32,000 "Look for Cyclist" stickers to driver centers across the city. Our annual Honor Roll this year recognized 433 drivers, of which 101 were repeat honorees. Over 11,000 drivers received Vision Zero education in 2019, and the TLC has held a total of 661 driver outreach meetings since 2014.  The TLC also increased its enforcement in 2019 around unsafe driving behaviors, such as illegal street hails, speeding, failure to yield, and stop sign violations.
  • Commercial Waste Collection Reform: In past years, progress on Vision Zero has been hindered by the continued high number of fatalities caused by collisions with private carting trucks -- including eight such deaths in 2019.  The plan enacted by the City Council in 2019 will dramatically reduce the number of vehicle-miles traveled by these trucks, and also gives the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) new regulatory powers -- including requirements for safer driving practices among carting drivers.
  • New Mayoral Vision Zero website: This week, the Mayor’s Office of Operations has unveiled a new and improved website that will help track and measure progress of Vision Zero initiatives.  Please see ww.nyc.gov/visionzero.

“This year we have seen an increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths across the City. We have also made many strides to make our streets safer for all New Yorkers. We have drastically increased speed cameras around school zones as well as the number of protected bike lane miles across the City,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee. “We must continue expanding all forms of protections for cyclists and pedestrians who are the most vulnerable. I will continue working alongside my colleagues, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and advocates to ensure we make New York City the most pedestrian and cyclist friendly in the nation.”

“Loss of life and injury to pedestrians are heartbreaking and tragic. I commend Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the staff of dedicated professionals at the NYC Department of Transportation for tackling this devastating problem,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan.  “It is difficult at times to know what the best solutions for crowded streets should be.  I know we need to listen to residents, small businesses, community boards and activists in trying to come up with programs that will reflect all concerns.  Of course the safety of our people is paramount and I commend NYCDOT for continuing to work on policies that will make it safer for all. I appreciate that a historic site in my assembly district was chosen for these announcements and pledge a renewed effort to work with all on these issues.”

Council Member Brad Lander said: “As we end 2019 with too many tragedies from traffic crash violence — each death stealing the life of a New Yorker and shattering a family — we must rededicate ourselves to the goal of zero fatalities. Reducing the speed limits on 3rd Avenue and Hamilton Avenue, where we lost too many lives this year, is a good step. I’m also committed to reaching an agreement with DOT and the Administration early in the New Year on the Reckless Driver Accountability Act. We can’t wait any longer.”

“For years, residents of Sunset Park have been calling for action as pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by motorists due to an outdated and dangerous transit grid at major roads, like Third Avenue. We are pleased the Mayor has responded; but lowering the speed limit is just the beginning. We need to work together with our city, state, and federal partners to ensure we equitably modernize our infrastructure for all New Yorkers. Four fatalities are already too many, our goal needs to be zero,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

 "With over 200,000 licensed drivers, the TLC is proud to play a role in the Mayor's goal of transforming traffic safety though Vision Zero,” said Taxi & Limousine Commission Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen.“We are committed to ensuring that the City's for-hire drivers make safety their top priority, and we do that through ongoing safety education and outreach, enforcing key traffic safety regulations and suspending unsafe drivers."

“I join our sister agencies in honoring the lives lost in traffic incidents in 2019, and in redoubling our efforts to promote road safety for all New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Vision Zero remains steadfast in its multipronged approach to reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries on our streets, but we know there’s more to be done.”

“The City is taking unprecedented steps to improve the safety of its vehicle fleet,” said Commissioner of the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services Lisette Camilo. “We are investing in employee training and new vehicle technology to help prevent collisions and to reduce the risk of serious injury when crashes do occur.”

“As the year 2019 draws to a close, the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) reminds all commercial waste haulers to exercise extreme caution when operating waste-hauling vehicles, to ensure a safe holiday season for everyone who shares our streets. Driving commercial waste collection trucks in New York City is challenging, particularly at night, when a driver’s visibility is limited,” said Commissioner and Chair of the Business Integrity Commission Noah D. Genel. “Trade waste truck drivers must take all precautions to drive safely — including obeying all traffic laws. BIC will continue to work with our Vision Zero partners, particularly the NYPD, to conduct traffic enforcement operations to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”

“The fact that we experienced a setback this year shows why continued vigilance around programs like Vision Zero is so important,” said Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations Jeff Thamkittikasem. “This setback represents lives lost. Our continued analysis, innovation, and swift implementation of what we’ve found to work is vital to making New York City a safer place for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives said: “As New York City saw an increase in cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in 2019, we must increase our focus on the timely implementation of Vision Zero. By using known and proven solutions, we can save lives and provide all New Yorkers with safe, equitable, and dignified transportation alternatives. As advocates, we stand ready to support in achieving these necessary changes.”

“We’re expecting a safe year with more bike use in 2020 thanks to Green Wave plan commitments such as more protected bike lane implementation, better separation from traffic in bike lane designs and innovations like bike-mounted bike network inspectors,“ said Jon Orcutt, Communications Director at Bike New York. 

About Vision Zero:
Vision Zero is the de Blasio administration’s initiative to use every tool at its disposal to end traffic deaths and injuries on New York City streets. Since the program’s inaugural year in 2014, when New York City became the first American city to adopt Vision Zero, the city’s traffic fatalities have declined more than 30 percent — bucking national fatality trends, which have increased 15 percent over the same period.

For more information about the de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero initiative, please see ww.nyc.gov/visionzero.

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