- The New York City Council approved a bill requiring the city's Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) to create a checklist of safety-enhancing street design elements that must be considered when undertaking major transportation projects.
- NYCDOT would be required to complete the 10-item checklist for every project to show which design elements had been applied, and to explain why certain elements had not been applied. Elements include ADA accessibility, protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, loading and unloading zones, pedestrian crossings and signal timings. The department would have to post the completed checklist publicly on its website before beginning the project.
- Last week, Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced complementary legislation that would require NYCDOT to create and implement a master plan for the design and use of streets, sidewalks and pedestrian spaces every five years. NYCDOT would be required to prioritize pedestrians, bikes, mass transit and reducing traffic congestion and emissions, in addition to improving access to infrastructure for people with reduced mobility, hearing and visual capabilities. The first master plan would be due Oct. 1 and must include a strategy for installing at least 150 miles of protected bus lanes and 250 miles of protected bike lanes during the five-year period.
The safety legislation that passed was introduced last year but reportedly stalled because members of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration opposed it. They made arguments that the city already includes safety in its designs and that the reporting requirements would cost the city additional time and money. This raises the question of whether de Blasio will sign the legislation into law. He still is expected to sign it considering his office changed course and voiced support in recent days and there was overwhelming city council support — 45 of the 47 voting members approved of the measure.
Council members says the legislation was designed to support New York's Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic injuries and deaths. The city's Vision Zero website notes five consecutive years of declining traffic deaths as of last year. However, 69 traffic deaths occurred in New York during the first several months of this year, a 31% increase from 2018, according to police data; NYCDOT indicates a smaller, 10% increase, reports amNewYork. The increase prompted safety advocates, including Transportation Alternatives, to call for action. Transportation Alternatives supports the safety legislation the city council passed last week and urged de Blasio to quickly sign it into law.
Both the passed legislation and the proposed measure would boost NYCDOT accountability on street safety. The measures also would prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists while aiming to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. The legislation complements other such mobility and safety strategies including an action plan to increase bus speeds 25% by next year, identifying pedestrian priority spaces in Lower Manhattan, transitioning more businesses to off-hours deliveries and implementing a congestion pricing plan.