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NYC Advocates Debut Bold Campaign to End Traffic Deaths

By Carolyn Szczepanski 

Tags: transportation alternatives, traffic accident, new york city, vision zero, dangerous design, Carolyn Szczepanski,

transaltThis month, advocates at Transportation Alternatives turned the spotlight on a stunning fact: Over the past 10 years, more New Yorkers have been killed by traffic than murdered by guns.

This crime against city residents is outlined in Vision Zero: How Safer Streets in New York City Can Save More Than 100 Lives a Year, a report from T.A. and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. According to the analysis, traffic violence takes the life of a New Yorker every 35 hours, with an average of 317 fatalities and 3,774 serious injuries per year.

“New York’s streets are downright deadly,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a press release about the report. “Though the city has made impressive strides in recent years to reduce traffic fatalities, traffic violence still claims the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers every year and seriously injures thousands more: over 70,000 people every year. Any number higher than zero is simply unacceptable. It’s time to challenge the culture of acceptance that acts like traffic is as uncontrollable as weather, and get serious about saving lives.”

The report commends recent improvements to the city’s streets — like bike lanes, curb extensions, speed bumps and narrower intersections — which have helped reduce fatalities. But that progress is just the first step in a much longer journey to catch up with leading cities, like Berlin, Paris and Stockholm. Those models, the advocates explain, provide a road map for saving lives. “If New York’s traffic fatality rate were the same as Stockholm’s, for instance, there would have been 1,195 fewer traffic fatalities between 2001 and 2007,” the authors’ point out. “If the rate were the same as Berlin’s, 1,426 live would have been saved. Thousands of life-altering injuries would also have been avoided.”

But the report isn’t just a dry outline of infrastructure recommendations. To truly transform the transportation system, the city must directly confront the deadly culture of acceptance — the notion that “accidents” are unavoidable. “New Yorkers must understand the human costs and the ethical implications of traffic crashes,” the report emphasizes. “Otherwise it will be difficult to gain the political support necessary to implement changes to the streetscape.”

vision0That’s where T.A.'s exciting, new campaign — Vision Zero — comes in.

“The release of the report kicks off a robust street safety campaign called Vision Zero,” the advocates explained. “Vision Zero means zero deaths, zero injuries and zero fear of traffic. The Vision Zero campaign will directly target one of the largest obstacles to street safety: the culture of acceptance. By educating New Yorkers and policymakers on the scope of the danger, as well as challenging the unspoken assumption that traffic violence is unavoidable, Transportation Alternatives will build momentum and support for real solutions."

The solution isn't just a reduced death rate, either. Advocates from T.A. won't quit until the dangers on their streets are eliminated completely and not a single life is lost to preventable traffic violence. Read more about Transportation Alternatives and Vision Zero here.