New York City scoops award for road safety initiative

31st May 2018 Jack Aldane

New York City has won the 2018 Transport Achievement Award of the International Transport Forum for a road safety programme that has cut traffic deaths in the city by almost a third.

The city’s Vision Zero programme, launched by the mayor, Bill de Blasio, in 2014, has nearly halved pedestrian fatalities in the city, reducing overall traffic deaths by 28 percent last year, the lowest rate in the more than 100 years since records began.

Collecting the award from the OECD in Leipzig was Michael Replogle, Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the city’s Department of Transportation. Replogle told Cities Today that one of his team’s biggest challenges has been to tackle the hundreds of road deaths recorded on Queens Boulevard, once known as the “boulevard of death”.

In 1997 alone, he said, 18 pedestrians were struck and killed by speeding motorists. The programme’s strategies include lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h), installing speed cameras and opening up dedicated bike lanes.

“Creating protected bike lanes often, but not always, involves removing parking spaces,” he said. “Many shopkeepers fear loss of parking will cost them customers, although studies in other New York City neighbourhoods show that these safety improvements are usually good for business. In the end, it is pedestrians, not cars, that go into shops and restaurants.”

The achievement stands against a backdrop of increasing road fatalities across the United States. From 2013 until 2016, road deaths across the country rose by 13 percent. The challenge for New York City remains to tackle the number of cyclist, motorcyclist and car passenger fatalities, the International Transport Forum said.

Since the implementation of Vision Zero, only one fatality–a 13-year old boy–has been recorded. Road incidents are often cited as the leading cause of injury-related deaths among children below the age of 14 in the city.

“The fact that Queens Boulevard has gone more than three years without a pedestrian or cyclist fatality is now the redesign’s strongest selling point,” Replogle concluded.

Young-Tae Kim, the forum’s Secretary-General, called Vision Zero exemplary for “addressing urban road safety as a public health issue” and further praised the programme’s “inclusive approach, solid implementation process, and thorough evaluation of results”.

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