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Countdown to Zero
De Blasio determined to eradicate traffic fatalities in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reflects with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at an intersection where an 8-year-old child was killed walking to school.
Rob Bennett / Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking steps to deliver on his campaign promise to stop what he calls an “epidemic of traffic fatalities” and serious injuries on New York City’s streets.

In a press conference held on January 15, de Blasio announced the formation of an interagency working group to implement “Vision Zero.” Leaders of the New York City Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission will report to the Mayor by February 15 with concrete plans for how to achieve the initiative’s goal of zero deaths.

Plans will include dedicating sufficient NYPD resources and personnel to deter the most dangerous behavior, particularly speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians; improving at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections annually; reducing the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on a number of city streets; and developing a legislative agenda for traffic safety that includes continuing to fight for the home rule right to install additional red light and speed enforcement cameras wherever data shows that they will make the streets safer.

Immediate measures have already been taken to address the public safety problem on the streets. Some speed cameras have been installed and are issuing tickets to enforce the speed limits on some of the city’s most dangerous streets. NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton, alongside the Mayor at his Vision Zero announcement, reported that the NYPD was increasing the number of officers in its highway division by 50 percent, to 270 officers.

Since the mayor’s press conference, the NYPD has been cracking down on traffic violations. The Brooklyn Paper reported that in a two-day period from January 23 to 24, police from the 78th precinct “handed out 16 summonses, one sixth of the 96 they gave out over all of 2013, and nearly two thirds of the 26 they wrote in December.”

The police are not only ticketing drivers, but also pedestrians. “We find it troubling that one of the police commissioner's apparent priorities is to ticket pedestrians,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Guardian. "The first order of business is to focus on those road users who do have the capacity to do harm. That is of course drivers of cars and trucks, multi-ton vehicles, that should be the first and foremost priority for enforcement and ticketing," he said.

Safe street advocates will be watching to see whether de Blasio can deliver on his promise to address the public safety problem. As of the mayor’s press conference, eleven New Yorkers had already been killed in traffic fatalities this year—seven of them pedestrians.

Liz McEnaney