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NYC's Vision Zero Nears Decade Mark Without Evident Effects

Vision Zero Action Plan, a 2014 initiative of former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, was intended to eliminate traffic fatalities within 10 years. That plan, adopted after an especially deadly period on the city's streets, seems to be falling far short, the New York Times reports. During its first five years, Vision Zero brought a reduction in the city speed limit to 25 miles per hour on most streets, the installation of more than 360 speed bumps and major bike lane and pedestrian plaza projects. It also increased by more than sevenfold the number of intersections in which pedestrians were now given a head start to cross, in advance of turning cars. Despite the implementation of these and many other measures, last year saw 257 traffic fatalities in the city; just one fewer than there had been nine years ago, when Vision Zero began. In just the first 24 days of this month, 15 traffic deaths occurred on a notorious stretch of Atlantic Avenue that divides Brooklyn Heights from Cobble Hill.


Under Vision Zero, the Department of Transportation was tasked with identifying “priority corridors” — those stretches where pedestrian deaths and serious injuries are most concentrated. One of them was Atlantic Avenue. In addition to changes in street design, there was an urgent need for more stringent enforcement. A host of factors influence what has happened since, but the bottom line is that the program isn't working as intended. Vision Zero was established after an especially tragic period; the city counted 299 deaths in 2013, and one in particular left an enduringly chilling imprint. Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy weeks away from his bar mitzvah, was retrieving a ball that had rolled onto Prospect Park West one fall afternoon when he was struck and killed by a Chevy van. The recent fatalities continue the carnage. On April 16, a 31-year-old woman, Katherine Harris, was crossing Atlantic at Clinton Street, where she had the right of way, when she was struck and killed by a speeding 27-year-old driver who was charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving while impaired and refusing to take a breathalyzer.

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