Declaring that “dangerous streets have to change,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new wave of construction that will produce “new crosswalks, wider sidewalks, pedestrian refuge medians and new protected bicycle lanes in every borough.” The construction activity is part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, now in its fourth year. The initiative is credited with a sharp decline in traffic fatalities, including a 20 percent drop in the first quarter of 2017.
The mayor made this announcement back in March when, according to the city’s official website, he “joined agency commissioners to inspect improvements underway at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge at Tillary Street, an area where 482 people have been injured, 23 of them seriously and one person killed over the last five years. One of the biggest overhauls this season, the project includes a wide new promenade for cyclists and pedestrians using the bridge, new crosswalks, trees and medians.”
In all, 16 projects were planned for the spring and summer of 2017, which DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg hailed as “another banner year of street redesigns.” Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and member of the MTA Board, went perhaps too far when she characterized the start of the construction season as “the end of preventable pedestrian and bicyclist crashes at dozens of dangerous locations throughout the city.”
At [ln::firm_name], we would like to share Ms. Vanterpool’s optimism that absolute zero is obtainable. But until human error can be eradicated, traffic accidents will result from operator negligence. To the extent that safe-street redesigns enhance user safety, they are a worthy investment, not only because they may prevent accidents, but the remediation of problem intersections can also reduce the city’s exposure to liability for accidents that occur there. If the plan is successful, it can be a win-win for the city.