New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to again pad funding for Vision Zero by adding another $317 million to the project over the next five years. The money will continue to fund traffic related changes aimed at reducing fatal collisions in New York City. The dough would allow the city to improve bike lanes, create more expansive curb cuts and conduct a recycling of traffic lights on hundreds of city streets, improvements that the city desperately needs, according to a Transportation advocacy group. The idea is that the implementation of these changes will lead to safer streets and less fatalities. The city has trotted out statistics that show a reduction in traffic fatalities every year since Vision Zero has been implemented.
Proponents of the plan have claimed that these changes will save hundreds of lives. But, do the actual numbers match the lofty rhetoric? The mayor has prioritized reducing fatal traffic accidents since taking office. His noble efforts have certainly realized a decrease in deadly collisions since the inception of Vision Zero. The statistics, however, are far from a slam dunk success. In 2015, there were 234 fatal collisions in the city. A year later there were 229 that as a result of vehicular accidents. The commitment to reducing accidents is laudable – – and 5 lives is not an insignificant number by any stretch. But does the data show that the money is being well spent?
The reduction of 5 fatal collisions is hardly revealing. In fact, you can make a compelling argument that it is a statistical anomaly. The reduction could have been realized, opponent’s claim, without the enormous amount of resources being devoted to Vision Zero. Is all this money – – hundreds of millions of dollars – – actually saving lives or were there just 5 less fatal collisions in a particular year? The answer is elusive. Plenty of people have competing takes on this.
There are certainly critics of the Vision Zero program. Some view the changes as unnecessary and lacking impact. The changes are unnecessary infringement on their freedom and quality of life, claim this segment of our population. Others feel that the Mayor is not doing enough, arguing that the plan has left some out in the cold. Those who feel Vision Zero is lacking point to a rash of recent fatal accidents. January 2017. In fact, has been a particularly deadly month. 11 New Yorkers were killed in just the first 2 weeks of January. That represents a grisly 57% increase over the same time last year. Yes it is only 2 weeks but it is also 11 fatal collisions. Can you take a bow for reducing fatal accidents by 5 in a year and then dismiss a two week stretch where 11 people died? Not if credibility is a concern.
The critics charge that the changes are aimed at making the streets safer for drivers, suggesting that de Blasio’s program has failed pedestrians and bicyclists. They argue that safer bike lanes are critical if the goal is to reduce the number of serious crashes. Bikers feel like the plan has not properly focused on improving their safety.
The Mayor and his administration are not deterred. They are steadfast that their Vision Zero plan will continue to be successful, making the streets safer while preventing fatal collisions. It is not an unfair burden to require these initiatives fairly account for the protection of motorists, passengers, pedestrians as well as bicyclists.
The Mayor should be commended for his ambitious and innovative Vision Zero plan. His focus is on reducing the number of serious accidents and saving lives. The concept and ideas should be applauded. Still, the manner in which we are utilizing vital resources should be scrutinized. The money needs to be used in the most impactful way and the statistics need to justify the resources that the Mayor is demanding. We will be watching. Let us know what you think . . .
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm committed to fighting on behalf of serious accident victims. They have recovered more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for their clients.
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