“Car crashes killed 273 people in 2021, a whopping 33% increase from 2018, the safest year in recent New York traffic history… It’s a mystery to know why so many city residents, as well as city and state politicians, seem to accept such a heartbreaking level of carnage as just another unfortunate compromise of city life.
Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announcement on February 18 that they would no longer allow the city’s subway system to be used for anything other than transportation. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) will enforce subway rules of conduct, including the forced eviction of homeless people.
“No more tobacco, no more drugs, no more sleep, no more barbecues in the subway” Mayor Adams said at a press conference at Fulton Street tube station. “No more doing what you want.”
Despite the worrying spike in threatening incidents, with daily attendance in recent days over 3 million, per capita, violent crime is still quite low in the metro. Crime at the Transit Bureau accounts for just 1.7% of total crime in the city, according to a January 2022 MTA Report.
But the perception of rampant crime on the subway isn’t just bad for the city’s economic well-being and the peace of mind of millions of riders, it’s political kryptonite. And to their credit, in addition to keeping the homeless and the mentally ill away, the mayor and governor have done make a plan to facilitate their access to essential social services, although it is unclear how this will be paid for.
While the NYPD’s homeless roundup might contribute to a collective sense of security among many straphangers, there’s an even more widespread and deadly crisis happening on the streets above the subway tunnels that deserves all the attention of New Yorkers. There has been an alarming spike in fatal car crashes on the streets of New York and it looks like it’s only getting worse.
Road crashes killed 273 people in 2021, a whopping 33% increase from 2018, the safest year in recent New York traffic history, according to data collected by Transportation Alternatives. Of those killed last year, 124 were pedestrians and 19 cyclists. It’s a mystery why so many city residents, as well as city and state politicians, seemingly accept such a heartbreaking level of carnage as another unfortunate compromise of city life.
The mayor, who is a cyclist like me, is well aware of the dangers New Yorkers face when using alternative modes of transportation or simply crossing the street on foot. We are essentially human eggshells constantly dodging fast two- to three-ton machines capable of grinding bones to dust.
The governor and mayor are also aware that motor vehicle violence has, so far, increased further in 2022. As of February 14, 28 people had died in motor vehicle violence in New York City, compared to 17 during the same period the last year according to data published by Streetsblog. Of those killed, 16 were pedestrians.
In addition, in January 2022, 657 pedestrians were injured by motorists, some seriously. That’s up from 503 injuries recorded the same month a year ago, according to NYPD data,.
In February alone, there was the 99-year-old Manhattan Beach resident who survived the Holocaust but was mowed down by an SUV driver who had accumulated 10 speeding in school zone tickets and four red light tickets since 2016, but was still allowed to drive. There was the 57 year old man who, while using the crosswalk at an intersection of Cooper and Cypress Avenues, was run over by not just one, but two separate SUV drivers who crushed his body and head under their wheels .
And we can add 18-year-old Sara Perez to the heartbreaking list after She was killed by a 16-year-old driver of a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck in Jackson Heights, Queens on February 17. Perez was not riding a bicycle, driving through a dangerous intersection or driving a fast automobile. Turns out she was walking down the sidewalk in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Perez had stopped to wait for the van to pull out of a garage and onto Northern Boulevard. But just as the truck pulled out, the same time Perez started walking, the driver realized he had backed into traffic and probably panicked, then started the truck back on, stepped on the gas and slammed Perez into a fence. . Public records on HowsMyDriving.com show the truck had eight traffic violations since September.
Last January, Mayor Adams and the city’s police commissioner promised that NYPD officers would watch to ensure that automobiles and cyclists stop at intersections until crosswalks are clear of pedestrians before proceeding.
“It doesn’t mean slowing down and navigating your car between people walking in the crosswalk. This means stopping until the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians and then continuing,” the police commissioner said. Keechant Sewell noted. “If our officers see a vehicle failing to stop while pedestrians are crossing in front of them, that’s where enforcement comes in.”
But despite the raging stream of post-pandemic car traffic choking city streets today, the NYPD’s enforcement of key traffic safety laws was in fact lower in January 2022 than the same month a year earlier.
For example, in January 2022the NYPD issued 2,770 summonses to drivers who did not yield to pedestrians, compared to 2,856 in January 2021. In January 2022, the NYPD issued only 8,606 speeding tickets, compared to 12,753 in January 2021. The same was true for unlicensed drivers. In January 2021, the department fined 3,556 unlicensed drivers while the same month in 2022 the total had fallen to 2,549.
More troubling, in 2021 there was 93 hit-and-runs with serious injuries. Arrests were made in only 23% of these cases.
But just like metro security, policing is only one ingredient in the cocktail of solutions. experts believe will help combat the sharp rise in automobile violence, while making our streets more livable for the majority of New Yorkers, not just car owners.
The streets are this city’s largest public space, and as such, city and state leaders are expected to convert 25% of automobile space to space for people by 2025.25×25So every New Yorker is within a five-minute walk of a car-free bus lane, a protected bike path, and a new green space. The Department of Transportation could also make redesigning dangerous corridors and intersections with life-saving traffic-calming infrastructure an urgent priority.
In addition to making our subways safer, the mayor and governor should also ensure that Albany lawmakers reauthorize, strengthen, and expand the speed safety program resulting in a 72% drop in speeding in the 750 zones where cameras operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Finally, legislators should adopt the Accident Victims Rights and Safety Actwhich also fights speeding and provides support to accident victims and their families.
While it may prove politically advantageous to order the NYPD to round up the homeless on the subway and increase security patrols, safer streets – through a combination of permanent street redesign and enforcement of existing traffic laws – have the potential to save and improve the lives of countless New Yorkers for generations to come.
Cody Lyon is a New York-based journalist.