Is ‘Vision Zero’ Plan Really Solving the Cyclist Crisis in NYC?

Bicycle Accident

There have been multiple news reports recently about cyclists killed in a New York City bicycle accidents. The news reports suggest that “Vison Zero,” the plan to eliminate all traffic-related deaths in New York City by 2024, isn’t working.

A recent issue of Bicycling magazine refers to the vigil for slain cyclist Robyn Hightman. A bike racer and messenger, Hightman was hit by a truck while riding in New York. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital and pronounced dead.

CBS 2 on July 2 cited the death of cyclist Devra Freelander, who was hit and killed while coming off the sidewalk just as a blue cement truck was trying to enter the intersection at Boreum Street and Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn.

Earlier this year, Charles McClean, who was killed in the Ocean Hill section of Brooklyn by a mail truck driver one day after 3-year-old Emur Shavkator was run over in Bath Beach.

PIX 11 on July 1 simply reported the “15th cyclist … killed in New York City this year. That makes five more cyclists killed than all last year citywide.”

What is Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ Plan?

The City describes Vision Zero as an action plan and “the City’s foundation for ending traffic deaths and injuries on our streets.” Vision Zero was unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio with a promise to use every tool available to improve the safety of streets in every borough of NYC, including:

  • Expanded enforcement against dangerous moving violations like speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians
  • New street designs and configurations to calm traffic and improve safety
  • Broad public outreach and communications
  • A sweeping legislative agenda to increase penalties for dangerous drivers and give New York City control over the safety of streets.

In the annual report released in March 2019, the City says overall traffic deaths have fallen each year for a decrease of one-third compared to 2013 and “remain the lowest ever since the dawn of the automobile.”

Cyclist deaths fell dramatically to the lowest numbers in over three decades, even though there are now more cyclists than ever on the streets of New York. Pedestrian deaths have decreased by 37 percent since 2013.

The report credits the Department of Transportation’s program of:

  • Street redesigns and safety interventions at 139 locations
  • Major bike lane projects in Midtown Manhattan and Sunnyside, Queens
  • Installation of 363 speed humps
  • Activation of 873 leading pedestrian intervals (giving pedestrians a 3- to 7-second head start when entering an intersection with a corresponding green signal in the same direction of travel)
  • New design elements such as features that curve the roadway to reduce speeding, and rapidly flashing rectangular beacons, which are intended to improve visibility and increase driver yielding at uncontrolled crosswalks near schools.

Meanwhile, NYPD continued to focus on targeting the six violations most likely to cause serious or fatal injury to pedestrians. The police issued a total of 704,446 summonses for these traffic offenses in 2018. NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission also focused on combating obstruction of bike lanes, which puts cyclists in danger, the report says.

Why So Many Fatal Bicycle Accidents on NYC Streets?

If Vision Zero is supposed to eliminate traffic deaths, why is 2019 shaping up to be such a deadly year for cyclists on NYC streets?

Streets Blog NYC said at least 63 people had died on the streets of New York this year — an increase of 30 percent, according to police statistics. The 15 cyclist deaths in the city as of July 1 more than double the seven killed by July 1 last year, the New York Post said.

Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for Bike New York and a former policy director for the city Department of Transportation, told the Post that DOT is redesigning some streets to make them safer for bicyclists, but they’re not keeping pace with increasing traffic.

The New York Times says 45 percent of all households in NYC have cars and almost 93,000 of them own three or more vehicles. In June, a newly formed company called Revel put 1,000 shareable mopeds on city streets.

The Bicycling magazine report says poorly designed streets in New York, especially the wide avenues that run north and south in Manhattan, often physically push cyclists out of bike lanes or make the lanes a less safe option than simply riding in the road. Bike lanes throughout the city are often unusable for more than a block or two at a time because of obstructions – often government vehicles, commercial trucks and taxi cabs.

“There’s a toxic mix of population growth, industry that uses trucks, and Uber and Lyft traffic,” Orcutt of Bike New York said. “Twelve inches can mean the difference between brushing yourself off and being killed.”

Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, told Streets Blog NYC that the City’s progress on street safety has stalled. “Traffic deaths are going up because the city has been not nearly as bold in making streets safer,” he said. “De Blasio has not really unleashed the DOT to do what we know they are capable of.”

De Blasio insisted that his Vision Zero plan was working, according to Bicycling. He pledged a full-court press to address cycling fatalities, and NYPD announced the next day it would spend three weeks ticketing drivers, especially those parked in bike lanes.

Bicycling added: “Cyclist fatalities are not accidents. They are preventable. They are as much a product of negligent or reckless driving as they are failures of street design and political will.”

Contact an NYC Bicycle Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured or your loved one has been killed in an NYC bicycle accident caused by a motorist or someone else, contact the New York personal injury lawyer at David Resnick & Associates. You may be able to recover compensation for medicals bill and other losses, including damage to your bicycle.

At David Resnick & Associates, our NYC lawyers have extensive legal experience handling injury cases and can help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us for a free legal consultation today.

Author: David Resnick

Founder of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., a New York personal injury law firm in charge of providing exceptional and personal service to each of our clients in various areas including car accidents, slip and fall, wrongful death, construction accidents, and premises liability. David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care.

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