Vision Zero hasn’t eliminated traffic deaths since it was implemented in 2014, but it’s reducing them.

What You Need To Know

  • Pedestrian deaths declined under Vision Zero as they went up nationwide

  • Cyclist deaths are the highest in a decade, due in part to an increase in cycling and the counting of bikes among the fatalities

  • The city Department of Transportation says it is picking up the pace on safety improvements at intersections

“In 2023 we got the lowest numbers of pedestrian fatality in the whole nation at the same time the USA as a country. We have the highest numbers since 1987,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez.

In 10 years, Rodríguez said overall traffic deaths declined by 12%, with pedestrian deaths down 45%, through a mix of street redesigns.

An example of a redesign would be for Queens Boulevard, once called the Boulevard of Death, lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour to speed cameras, which went 24/7 in 2022.

“In those locations, we installed the speed cameras [for] 24 hours,” Rodríguez said. “We saw a reduction in speeding by 65%.”

One challenge has been the growth of cycling: commutes by bike up 94% since 2012 to over 60,000.

While 2023 saw 99 pedestrian deaths — the lowest number outside of 2020. It was also the one of the deadliest for cyclists: 29 deaths, though after 2019 e-bikes were counted as bicycles and now make up most of the fatalities.

Advocates like Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, say the city’s streets are just not keeping up.

“We have to take the great ideas that we have and we continue to adapt them: wider bike lanes, more bike lanes everywhere,” Harris said.

Two-hundred miles of protected bike lanes have been built in 10 years, but there has been pushback in some areas.

Rodríguez said education and outreach have been key.

“In many locations, people saw bike lanes as equal to a community being gentrified,” Rodríguez said. “So, we are taking into that approach to educate communities, for everyone to know that biking is important for the health of every single people, it’s good for the environment, and helps people to save money.”

Meanwhile, Harris said the city could be doing more, like implementing simple, cost-effective changes citywide like daylighting: removing a parking spot near the corner so drivers can see pedestrians better.

“When it comes to vision zero, we have to go block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, asking if a neighborhood wants safety and letting them actually have a referendum on that,” he says. “That’s unacceptable.”

Rodríguez said they are picking up the pace.

“We already have online dozens of new raised crosswalks new Yorkers will see in the next couple of months,” Rodríguez said. “New Yorkers will also see more improving of safety in 1000 intersections every year.”

And it’s not just about streets, but also cars.

Thursday morning, Mayor Eric Adams issued an executive order requiring increased driver training and 360-degree cameras for the city’s fleet and most contractor’s vehicles.