New York is in the midst of its Vision Zero campaign. As part of that effort, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill that went into effect late last year to lower the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph. The hope is that lower speeds will reduce the number of car, pedestrian and bicycle accidents and make such accidents less fatal when they do occur.
This is common-sense reform, but America’s roads and traffic laws need a major overhaul. This is especially true here in New York, where pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to use infrastructure designed almost entirely around automobiles.
Perhaps New York City streets should be redesigned to meet the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as cars and trucks. Such design changes have already taken place in the Netherlands and Sweden, and traffic fatalities have declined dramatically.
In many urban areas, cyclists, cars and pedestrians remain separated, but curbs have been removed. This reminds drivers that they are in a shared space. Across Europe generally, driving lanes tend to be narrower than they are in the U.S., which means that drivers feel compelled to drive more slowly than they otherwise would.
Perhaps the most important overhaul needed is an attitude adjustment. New York’s Vision Zero campaign is modeled after a program of the same name in Sweden. That program started with the premise that all traffic fatalities are preventable and should be prevented. New York, on the other hand, has too long regarded traffic fatalities as simply the costs of getting around in the city.
There is already some statistical evidence to suggest that New York’s Vision Zero campaign has been effective. Rather than resting on our laurels, we need to continue this important work until all travelers on NYC streets can get where they are going safely.
Source: FiveThirtyEight.com, “Why The Rules Of The Road Aren’t Enough To Prevent People From Dying,” Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Jan. 15, 2014