As of the July 29, eighteen cyclists have perished on the roads of NYC this year. July looked particularly perilous for pedalers: one died on July 1 and two on the 23rd, then on the 24th — within 24 hours of the first fatality on July 23, on the morning of July 29 a cyclist lost his life when dodging a car door as it swung open, also in the last week of the month two cyclists were hit and severely injured. June and May were also deadly, four cyclists in June and three in May all lost their lives. That adds up to eleven deaths in these three months of 2019. Ten was the annual total of cyclist fatalities for 2018. This year thus far has demonstrated that Brooklyn is the most dangerous biking borough; thirteen of the eighteen fatalities happened here.
Vision Zero’s data for the most part shows its safety measures are making the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists overall since its implementation in 2014. However the slight increase of pedestrian fatalities in 2018 (from 2017) and the recent cyclist tragedies are a wakeup call that there’s still work to be done and lives continue to be at risk. The zero goal seems to be flying farther off into the horizon like a migrating monarch butterfly.
On July 3rd, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, community groups, and cyclists held a vigil for cyclist Devra Freelander who was struck and killed by a cement truck at Bushwick Avenue and Boerum Street on July 1st. Her death marked the third cyclist killed that week in addition to being the second to occur within Council District 33 and the City’s fifteenth cyclist fatality of this year. The following Tuesday, hundreds of cyclists held a die-in protest in Washington Square Park.
Council Member Reynoso called for Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Transportation to swiftly implement more aggressive pedestrian and cyclist measures, measures like those that are outlined in Transportation Alternatives’ report titled The Vision Zero Street Design Standard. The report outlines ways to discourage speeding via street design and implement signal protected pedestrian crossings to reduce turning conflicts, among other safety initiatives.
On July 23rd the NYC Council passed Int 1457-2019. The legislation when signed by the Mayor will go into effect in November; it allows for cyclists to have the pedestrian head start when prior to this they had to wait to move with the automobile traffic, and they must continue to yield to pedestrians they encounter.
This bill was signed on the same day that two more cyclists lost their lives. On Staten Island, 17-year-old Alex Cordero was struck and killed at noon, and just four hours later a 58-year-old unidentified man was killed on McGuinness Boulevard and Norman Avenue after a collision with a box truck.
On hearing this news, Reynoso stated on Twitter, “This is the 2nd cyclist killed in the city TODAY and the 2nd in north Brooklyn THIS MONTH. This is a public safety crisis. @NYCMayor how many more have to die before we see meaningful action??”
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol announced on July 24 that he is allocating $1M in New York State Funding for the New York City Department of Transportation to implement immediate roadway safety infrastructure for cyclists and motorists in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill.
“I am sickened by the escalating number of deaths and injuries to cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers in New York City. We must devise and implement safety solutions to reverse this trend and protect everyone on the road. I am committing these funds in order to swiftly implement safety measures in my district because we must find a way to make streets safer for all modes of transportation,” said Lentol. “North Brooklyn needs additional protected bicycle lanes in high usage streets,” Lentol added.
Of the eighteen cyclists that were killed, at least twelve were riding on roads that had no bike lanes. At least three were struck in intersections, which may have been prevented by offset crossings or other implementations that give bicyclists greater visibility.
“No loss of life on our streets is acceptable. With a dangerous surge in cyclist fatalities, we have to keep pushing the envelope and increasing our efforts. That’s what this plan is about. It’s a continuation of our promise. This time, specifically to bikers. We are here to protect you and we take that job seriously.” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, during the unveiling of the “Green Wave”, on July 25, which includes an accelerated build-out of a citywide protected bike lane network and NYPD enforcement of crash-prone intersections. The $58.4 million plan combines design, enforcement, legislation, policy and education to make the City’s streets safer for cyclists and all street users.
Many of the public have voiced skepticism about the enforcement angle. According to the Vision Zero Year Five Report , 54,469 summonses were issued to drivers for Failure to Yield violations in 2018, which is four times the pre-Vision Zero average. However, skepticism is fueled by the perceived lack of punishment. There may be arrests and summonses, but punitive measures that have been or are to be paid are rarely publicized. Even in circumstances where the vehicle is determined to have had the green light, it has been expressed that a collision under those circumstances should be evaluated more closely to see if the driver neglected any responsibility on his part. Be that as it may, it is undetermined whether higher punishment would be a deterrent to drivers who speed, are careless, and refuse to yield. The route to safer streets isn’t a one-way road. A combination of efforts is needed to bring Vision Zero into focus.
Adding a more caring sensibility when it comes to sharing the road could also help to make the streets safer. Making eye contact with a fellow traveler in an intersection can save a life or even make one’s day. The feeling you get from an altruistic driver who allows you to go when you have the stop sign on your corner and they don’t can surpass road rage any day. Happy trails to you, and let’s look out for one another and be careful out there.