Last month, local activists and the families of New Yorkers killed by dangerous drivers delivered 4,127 letters to then-candidate de Blasio, declaring, “I bike, I walk & I vote.” (Photo: Dmitry Gudkov.)
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio ran on a platform with ambitious goals to reduce traffic deaths, improve bus service, and increase bicycling. As New York City’s first mayoral transition in 12 years gets underway, Streetsblog is asking advocates and experts how Mayor-elect de Blasio should follow through and implement a progressive transportation policy agenda. First up: Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
Now that he’s won the mayoral election, Bill de Blasio is positioned to change New York City’s streets – for good. His challenge will be to take the safety improvements we’ve seen in a handful of neighborhoods and expand them across the five boroughs, bringing his vision of equity to the streets we all share.
How can he do it? Well, he’s already provided the answers – in his campaign pledges to improve quality of life and reduce traffic fatalities by bringing safe streets to all of New York’s 400 neighborhoods.
Four years from now, millions of New Yorkers, from Co-Op City to the neighborhoods along Queens Boulevard and Richmond Terrace, should have safe and livable streets. We should expect that in 2017, when people talk about a typical New York City residential neighborhood, they’ll be thinking of one with 20 mph zones, Play Streets, and bustling, people-oriented commercial corridors that boost local economic activity more than any EDC-funded parking lot ever did.
Those safety improvements throughout the city will mean thousands of injuries prevented, and hundreds of lives saved. We’ll see fewer TV news reports about parents grieving for lost children, because the number of pedestrian fatalities will have fallen dramatically during the de Blasio administration.
These goals fit perfectly into Bill de Blasio’s vision of ending the disparities between what he has referred to as New York’s “two cities.” Now, residents just have to hold the Mayor-elect to the promises he’s made.
When he outlined his transportation policy, candidate de Blasio promised to “prioritize long-neglected parts of the outer boroughs, alleviate dangerous conditions that make streets unsafe, and work toward a more efficient and flexible network that delivers real choice for New Yorkers.”
Let’s begin with those “dangerous conditions,” because safety should be the principle that governs every move Bill de Blasio makes when it comes to transportation.
The Mayor-elect’s most remarkable campaign pledge on transportation was his commitment to “Vision Zero.” The goal is to get New York to the point where the city has no fatalities or serious injuries caused by car crashes by the year 2024. Specific proposals include more Neighborhood Slow Zones, along with a crackdown on reckless driving, speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians.
To make Vision Zero a reality, de Blasio must appoint a police commissioner who will get serious about enforcing the city’s traffic laws. The next leader of the NYPD needs to recognize the changing public safety landscape in New York City. Crime and terrorism need to be prevented, but so does unlawful driving and disregard for life and limb on our roads. After all, more people are killed in traffic than murdered by guns in New York City.
Analysts know what causes collisions and where and when they happen most frequently. Just as the NYPD uses CompStat to target its resources to combat crime, the next police commissioner must use data-driven traffic enforcement consistently across the precincts to target the most deadly violations.
There’s another significant commissioner appointment that Mayor-elect de Blasio will be making in the coming weeks: the decision about who should lead the city’s Department of Transportation. The right commissioner can build on Mayor Bloomberg’s transportation legacy, but the wrong person could stall the rollout of better streets to New Yorkers who need them most. DOT needs a skilled manager with a commitment to using transportation policy to realize the Mayor-elect’s economic and social goals.