As several panel members acknowledged during State Senator Liz Krueger’s July 21 town hall entitled “Sharing our Streets: How Better Design Can Make Streets Safer and More User Friendly For Everyone,” the first quarter of 2022 has been NYC’s deadliest year for traffic fatalities since 2014, when the Vision Zero program began.
“I know how challenging it can be to navigate the streets and sidewalks in my district. Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are taking our lives into our hands when we step off a curb,” said Krueger. In the past year to date, the 19th Precinct – which covers the Upper East Side, including District 28, which Krueger represents – has recorded 826 traffic collisions. Approximately 30% of collisions resulted in injuries.
The number of vehicles on the road decreased during the pandemic, causing speeding to increase. Subsequently, traffic fatalities and injuries have spiked in recent months. “The streets of Manhattan have always been very busy, but these days they feel busier than ever. Pedestrians, cars, bikes, delivery workers, and restaurants are all sharing our streets, which can create challenging situations that are difficult for each of them to navigate,” said Krueger.
During the event, which updated the public on traffic safety measures, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar of the Department of Transportation, Sergeant Joshep L. Palaguachi of the NYPD 19th Precinct and Safe Streets Advocate Paul Krikler all made presentations.
The 19th Precinct reaffirmed their commitment to enforcing traffic and pedestrian safety laws. In particular, the precinct will continue to promptly address the “roaming bands” — groups of dozens of individuals on motor bikes — that have been terrorizing the city. Roaming band members often drive dirt bikes and ATVs, which are illegal to operate on the city’s streets. Precincts across the city are in the process of confiscating illegal vehicles.
Given the recent accidents, Pincar said that the DOT is “redoubling our efforts to improve traffic safety.” The Department’s executive budget for this year includes over $900 million dedicated to street safety. The DOT is currently redesigning 1,000 intersections across the city.
The DOT is currently beginning a project to add a painted sidewalk extension to Lexington Avenue. “This project will provide more space to New Yorkers walking up and down the corridor to and from Grand Central Terminal,” Pincar said.
Pincar added that Lexington Ave. currently “has some of the busiest and narrower sidewalks in the city.” The DOT and 19th Precinct are in close collaboration in order to tackle this issue.
The DOT will also start testing “zebras,” a type of barrier between bike lanes and streets, in order to protect bikers, drivers, and pedestrians alike. Pincar also stated that the DOT is dedicating $125 million to construct raised sidewalks, which will increase pedestrian safety.
24/7 Speed Cameras
Pincar highlighted a previous announcement by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez that on August 1, a law will take effect allowing speed cameras to operate 24/7. Previously, the cameras only operated during limited hours, missing the 59 percent of crashes which have taken place during the camera’s “off” hours. According to information provided by the City, speed cameras are shown to reduce speed by 72 percent, saving lives.
Krikler, a London native who has been living in New York for over twenty years, presented his vision of a safer city. “We deserve much wider sidewalks so we can get around not just comfortably but safely as well,” said Krikler.
Krikler called for all New Yorkers to work together to combat traffic fatalities. “I think these discussions tend to focus on calling people a “car driver,” a “bicyclist,” or a “pedestrian,” but we all tend to do everything,” said Krikler, “I think it’ll help us all if we don’t silo each other into these categories.”
All panel members will continue to update the Senator and the public with their progress.
“I know how challenging it can be to navigate the streets and sidewalks in my district. Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are taking our lives into our hands when we step off a curb.” State Senator Liz Krueger