At a Transportation Alternatives forum this morning on reforming the agency’s approach to traffic enforcement, former NYPD commissioner (and current contender for his old job) Bill Bratton said street safety deserves more attention from the police. The former chief was followed by a panel discussion featuring one of the creators of the “broken windows” theory of policing Bratton is credited with executing, who argued that the approach should also be applied to traffic violence.
With speculation swirling about Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s pick for police commissioner, pressure is mounting from street safety advocates who want to see NYPD play a stronger role in reducing crash-related deaths and injuries.
“The Bloomberg administration has spent a significant amount of time and focus on redesigning the streets,” Bratton said. Of police traffic enforcement, he said, “More can be done in this critical area. The time for this issue has come.”
Bratton’s history with traffic enforcement dates to his childhood: He served on his elementary school’s walk-to-school safety patrol, and his first assignment in the Boston Police Department was directing traffic. Bratton spoke highly of aggressive “jaywalking” ticketing in Los Angeles, where he served as police chief, but his emphasis shifted when he began to talk about New York. ”One of the great things about this city is that it is so much a walking city. Similar to what occurred in the 90s on crime, more can be done to deal with this issue,” he said. ”I’d like to walk the streets and ride the streets on a bicycle on occasion…I don’t feel comfortable riding a bicycle on the city streets.”
“We now know precisely which modern street designs work to reduce death and injury,” Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White said, mentioning protected bike lanes, pedestrian islands, increased crossing time, and curb extensions. ”Our next DOT commissioner needs to make safely-designed streets the rule, not the exception,” he said. ”If that is what the DOT is doing differently to achieve Vision Zero, what is the NYPD going to do to achieve Vision Zero?”
White then pointed to infractions like speeding and failure to yield, which are top contributors to fatal crashes. ”These violations are not meaningfully enforced today in New York City,” he said. ”We’re not making progress anymore. Traffic injuries and fatalities were going down, but they’ve plateaued.”