Bill De Blasio exits with highest year-end NYC traffic deaths

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final year in office has seen more traffic fatalities than any other year in his two-term tenure, according to city stats.

As of Dec. 26, 266 people had died in car crashes on New York City streets, according to the city Department of Transportation — the most since 293 people died in 2013, the year before de Blasio became mayor.

But the 10 percent reduction in traffic fatalities over the course of de Blasio’s eight years in office is a far cry from the zero deaths he promised by 2024 as part of his signature “Vision Zero” program.

Trends have moved in the wrong direction in every category compared to 2018, when the de Blasio administration took credit for record-low traffic deaths.

As of Dec. 26, New York had seen 120 pedestrians, 19 cyclists, 50 motorcyclists, 61 motor vehicle occupants, as well as 14 users of other devices such as e-scooters, die on city streets.

De Blasio had promised zero traffic fatalities by 2024.
ZUMAPRESS.com

The spike in road carnage has been particularly acute since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic emptied city streets and dangerous speeding increased.

City officials point to a number of potential sources of the continued rise in 2021. Two-thirds of motorcycle victims were unlicensed, while hit-and-runs nearly doubled in 2021 compared to the past three years, DOT spokesman Vin Barone said.

Three-fifths of pedestrian-killing crashes involved drivers who either fled the scene, did not have a valid license or had prior convictions or license suspensions, Barone said.

Cops at scene of accident
Critics charge that Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to allocate more space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Seth Gottfried

De Blasio administration reps said the onus is not solely on city government, noting the mayor’s repeated calls during the pandemic for the state to allow city speed cameras to operate around-the-clock as evidence of his continued commitment to eliminating traffic deaths. The cameras are currently operable only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“It’s been a challenging year, and we mourn every life lost on the streets. But this mayor presided over seven of the eight safest years on record because he made structural changes,” City Hall spokesman Mitch Schwartz said in a statement. “From record installations of bus lanes and bike lanes, to the largest speed camera program in North America, to reduced speed limits on dozens of miles of major corridors, we’ve made important changes to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Safety advocates see it differently.

cop ticketing car
There had been a huge increase in fatalities from 2020 to 2021.
Paul Martinka

While empty streets did encourage dangerous driving in the first year of the pandemic, they believe the mayor squandered the opportunity to reallocate more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

“I feel like he missed a lot of opportunities. He’s been behind the ball,” said Astoria bike commuter Julie Huntington. “We saw in the COVID pandemic more people turning to different types of transit. It took two directions. It was exciting to see a lot of new people on bicycles, but on the other hand we also saw a lot of people buying cars.”

Mayor-elect Eric Adams has sounded more ambitious than his predecessor when it comes to redesigning streets, and on the campaign trail pledged to add 300 miles of new protected lanes.

Advocates expressed disappointment with what they perceived to be the current mayor’s lackluster legacy on Vision Zero and reducing traffic deaths.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has pledged 300 miles of new bike lanes.
Steve Sanchez/Sipa USA

“There was incredible potential. New York City continues to lead the nation on traffic safety. At the same time, it’s really been a tale of two cities — exactly what the mayor was trying to get against,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris.

“The last three years have seen a rise in traffic violence,” Harris said. “While the mayor was quick to blame COVID or Albany or a number of others, the mayor is responsible for our streets. And we had 1,855 people who were killed under this mayor’s watch on our streets.”