Inside an NYPD fleet shop in Woodside on Monday, the mayor announced that 2017 was the safest year for pedestrian and traffic fatalities since 1910. Since Vision Zero was launched in 2013, traffic fatalities have dropped 45 percent, while pedestrian fatalities have fallen 45 percent.
Only 101 pedestrians were killed in 2017, compared to 184 in 2013. Overall, there were 214 traffic fatalities in New York City last year. There were 299 in 2013.
“The last time New York City streets were this safe, people were getting around with a horse and buggy,” de Blasio said. “In the entire era of the automobile, we’re at the safest point we’ve ever been.”
Despite the decreases in pedestrian deaths, 2017 did not fare as well for other users of the street. There was an uptick in bicyclist, motorcyclist and motor vehicle deaths last year. Compared to 2013, when Vision Zero began, more than twice the number of cyclists were killed on the roads in 2017.
But the 32 percent drop in pedestrian deaths since 2016, combined with larger decreases overall, was enough evidence for the mayor to declare that “Vision Zero works.”
“In just four years’ time, pedestrian deaths almost cut in half,” he said. “That means a mother came home to her children. That means a child came home to his mother or father.”
De Blasio pledged to continue Vision Zero’s progress moving forward. The city will continue to redesign dangerous streets and intersections “at a record pace.” Last year, the NYPD gave a record-number of summonses for failure to yield to pedestrians and for speeding. Police officials said that enforcement will continue as well.
“No loss of life is acceptable on our roads,” said NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. “In 2018, we are committed to building on this foundation and to create an even safer New York City.”
The Vision Zero initiative will cost the city $1.6 billion over five years, the mayor said.
“When you look at how many lives are being saved, it’s worth every penny,” he said.
At the announcement on Monday, de Blasio claimed 2017 was also the safest year in history for Queens. He touted the success of transforming Queens Boulevard, which used to be colloquially known as the “Boulevard of Death.”
In the last three years, there have been no pedestrian or cyclist fatalities on the major thoroughfare, leading the mayor to dub it “the Boulevard of Life.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer called the changes to Queens Boulevard one of the ‘biggest success stories in this city.” He said it was normalized when more than a dozen lives were lost annually from crashes.
“If you can make Queens Boulevard safer, you can make any street in this city and country safer,” Van Bramer said. “We have demonstrated that it is possible.”
Van Bramer also paid tribute to Noshat Nahian, an 8-year-old boy who was killed on Northern Boulevard by a truck four years ago. His death preceded the launch of Vision Zero. According to the councilman, Nahian’s family, struck with grief, moved back to Bangladesh.
Councilman Robert Holden admitted on Monday that he was “one of those doubting Thomases” at the civic level when de Blasio first introduced Vision Zero. Since then, he has been won over.
“I was wrong,” he said. “You can’t argue with saving lives, that’s paramount here.”
The newly elected councilman said there are still problems with traffic on residential side streets. When drivers use apps like Waze, which attempt to avoid traffic congestion, many end up going through residential areas.
Another issue he brought up was the lack of transportation options in Maspeth and Middle Village. If the city is going to change people’s mindset about driving, Holden said, there needs to be more public transit.
The mayor responded that they will “work together” to address that issue.
Before departing, de Blasio made another plea for Albany to increase the number of speed cameras placed around schools. Though some critics say it’s a cash grab for the city, the mayor said more cameras would mean more lives saved.
“I would love to get no revenue if people would just stop speeding,” he said. “When they see those cameras and know they’re there, they stop speeding. That’s why it works.”