Back in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his administration’s “Vision Zero” initiative, aimed to improve road traffic safety and eliminate traffic deaths in New York City within a decade. For those who are unfamiliar with the initiative, read on to find out more about what it entails, how it will impact Staten Islanders, and what you can do to help make it a success.
A Little History
“Vision Zero” is a road traffic safety project that started in Sweden in 1997, launched with the intent to achieve a highway system where no fatalities or serious injuries occurred due to road traffic. It operates on the principle that ‘life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society,’ and takes a more proactive approach to reduce injuries and fatalities, rather than a reaction once they occur.
Vision Zero is based four principles: that human life and health are more important than mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system, that all users of the roadways share a huge responsibility, that roads should be designed to minimize opportunities for traffic crashes, and that all users and regulators of the roadways must cooperate and be ready to change in order to achieve safety.
Vision Zero initiatives are becoming popular in many countries, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as other major cities in the United States such as San Francisco and Boston.
The Action Plan
Some of you may have noticed the ticket blitz that occurred at the end of May, where within a 48 hour period of time, law enforcement cracked down on traffic violations across the city by issuing hundreds of speeding tickets.
Why the blitz? The intense ticketing was just one measure of Vision Zero’s 63-point plan to ensure roadway safety. Some of the other increased traffic measures we can expect to see in the near future include more red light cameras, traffic calming and slowing down devices, clearer street markings, education and more enforcement.
Getting drivers to slow down is just one major component of the plan, since unsafe vehicle speeds are the number one cause of fatal crashes in New York, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries per year in New York City alone.
The plan also calls for more arterial slow zones on the city streets where the majority of traffic fatalities occur. One of these streets happens to be on Staten Island’s North Shore.
This summer, Forest Avenue will become part of the 25 mph arterial slow zone program. Considered a “high-crash” street due to six fatalities since 2008, Forest Avenue from Victory Boulevard to Goethals Road will receive 25 mph speed limit signs, as well as retimed traffic signals and focused enforcement from NYPD.
Signal retiming will slow down off-peak drivers between midnight and 6 am, which is when the most pedestrian injuries occur. Increased law enforcement will crack down on speeding, failure to obey signals, and failure to yield to pedestrians. The city hopes that these measures will make New York City a safer place to walk, bike and drive.
Buying Into It
Although the mayor is calling for collaboration among many agencies (including city hall, law enforcement, the department of transportation, the taxi and limousine commission, the department of health and mental hygiene and the department of citywide administrative services) to launch and support the initiative, the truth is, its success is largely in our hands.
As I researched this topic, I came to realize that there seems to be a “culture of acceptance” of traffic fatalities and injuries among many city residents. It’s like we have become accustomed to the fact that traffic “accidents,” injuries and deaths will occur, and that there is nothing we can do about it.
But we couldn’t be more wrong. In order for Vision Zero to become a reality, there first needs to be a sense of urgency among city residents to improve street safety. Vision Zero calls for us to become more aware of the risks and dangers when it comes to road safety, and to respect the measures put into place to keep us all safe.
I wasn’t sold on this initiative until I read this fact: traffic crashes pose a risk to our health and safety on the same scale as gun violence. More New Yorkers are killed by traffic than murdered by guns. Our voices are loud when it comes to this type of violence- yet, when it comes to traffic violence we feel we have no voice.
Instead of seeing Vision Zero as an inconvenience, or just another way the city wants to hassle citizens for money, or a ‘lost cause,’ think about it as a way to protect you and your loved ones from a type of violence that is very preventable. Think of it as a quality of life issue that affects us all. Think of it as something we actually have the power to change.
What You Can Do
Through “Vision Zero,” the city is making a commitment to improve street safety through expanded enforcement of moving violations to new street designs, public outreach and communications, and new legislation to increase penalties for dangerous drivers. But it is up to the residents to make sure that our streets are a safe place for us to drive, bike and walk.
The first thing you can do is change your mindset, like I mentioned above. Be safe. Follow the traffic rules. Teach your children to be respectful of these rules and of others. Value human life and realize that when you are driving, you have a huge responsibility to the hundreds of people you pass in your car. Share the road.
Another thing you can do is go on the “Vision Zero” website to report any traffic concerns you may have. There is an interactive map you can click on that allows you to choose an intersection to share a specific traffic issue associated with that area. Of the issues to choose from are: double parking, speeding, failure to yield, red light running, poor visibility, and not enough time to cross, among others. You have the option of leaving your name and/or email address, and you must leave a description of the event/issue.
This website is a great way to get involved with making your community a safer place, and, if you give your email, you will be kept up-to-date with any investigations and/or actions that have taken place at the location. I have heard that by using this website, traffic issues have been resolved, even promptly!
You can also voice your concerns at the next public workshop, hosted by the Department of Transportation, which will take place on June 26th at Curtis High school, starting at 6:30pm.
By changing our way of thinking, our vocabulary, and our priorities, we learn to share the road better, and we become more responsible drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Take the initiative, Staten Island!
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