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‘Vision Zero isn’t failing — de Blasio is!’ protesters cry after wave of cyclist, ped deaths

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Transportation Alternatives is through with Bill de Blasio.

The mayor and TransAlt, onetime allies in the quest for Vision Zero — zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries on the city’s streets — are no longer on the same page, according to Danny Harris, the pro-cycling and pro-pedestrian group’s executive director.

“We’re looking toward the future,” Harris told The Village Sun after a press conference at Union Square last week.

By “the future,” he clearly meant the next administration and next mayor, likely Eric Adams.

The sign of a protester at the TransAlt rally riffed on a favorite acronym among anti-cop activists. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Outrage from TransAlt and cyclists recently boiled over after a weekend that saw drivers take six lives, killing a baby on the sidewalk in Brooklyn, a cyclist and a pedestrian on the Upper West Side, a teen on a moped in Queens and two motorcyclists in Queens, plus critically injuring at least two pedestrians and a cyclist.

After that weekend of Sept. 11-12, the total number of people killed in traffic crashes in New York City in 2021 rose to 188. Since Mayor de Blasio took office nearly eight years ago, traffic crashes have killed more than 1,800 people in the city.

Transportation Alternatives is calling for 25 percent of the city’s roadways to be “repurposed” from their current car use. (Photo by The Village Sun)

While pedestrian deaths, on the one hand, have steadily declined since 2013, the same steady progress has not been seen, despite some dips in earlier years, in the annual numbers of deaths of cyclists, car drivers and motorcycle riders.

These grim figures are unacceptable to TransAlt.

“We’re heartbroken and furious by [sic] the deadly and daily occurrence of traffic violence on Mayor de Blasio’s streets,” Harris said. “The deadliest year under Mayor de Blasio’s tenure shows no sign of letting up.

Baby strollers were arrayed at the protest to represent the child victims of traffic crashes so far this year. The young victims’ names were also read aloud. Gazing at the memorial in thought, above, were sisters Juliana, 9, right, and Molly Silver, 6, who ride their scooters in Park Slope and whose dad, Mark Silver, is a TransAlt member. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“You’re our mayor! Do something!” he demanded. “Shame on you, Mayor de Blasio! Vision Zero isn’t failing — you’re failing! This mayor promised us Vision Zero by 2024. We’ve now experienced the most deadly month since this [effort] started.

“The driver who killed the three-month-old had amassed more than 160 traffic violations, including 91 school-zone speeding violations,” he said. “This driver should not have been on the road, period.”

Family members and friends who have lost loved ones to traffic crashes slammed Mayor de Blasio for not making the streets safe. (Photo by The Village Sun)

For its part, TransAlt says the way to make the streets safer is through infrastructure changes — chiefly, “repurposing” a quarter of the roadways away from car use.

“We need our next mayor and City Council to chart a new path forward for New York City built on safe streets for people,” the TransAlt leader declared. “Our leaders must implement the vision of NYC 25×25 and repurpose 25 percent of our streets to better use by 2025. This must include opening streets to people, redesigning dangerous corridors, and building safer streets across every corner of this city that put pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders first.”

The protesters gathered on the north plaza of Union Square. (Photo by The Village Sun)
The crowd numbered around 250. (Photo by The Village Sun)

There are also two legislative approaches, however, that could help make a difference.

For one, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, who was among the roughly 250 people at the Union Square press conference, said school speed-camera tickets should count the same as “cop-issued tickets,” in terms of negative points on a driver’s license.

“For speed cameras, you don’t get points,” he told The Village Sun.

There is pending legislation in Albany that could rectify this problem, he noted.

Penalties for drivers who kill are often nonexistent, as a protester’s sign referenced. (Photo by The Village Sun)

The press conference’s organizers did not allow politicians to speak on the microphone, which one speaker said was why “no politicians” showed up. However, along with Epstein, who held his bike helmet in hand, was his chief of staff, District Leader John Blasco, and Jacob Priley, state Senator Brad Hoylman’s chief of staff.

On the city level, the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement bill, passed last year, allows the city to impound vehicles of drivers with 15 or more school speed-camera violations or five or more red-light camera violations during a 12-month period, unless the driver completes a “driver accountability course.” However, it turns out, this program was not being funded.

Debbie and Harold Kahn lost their son, Seth, to a reckless M.T.A. bus driver. The union driver eventually quit — but with disability payments for “stress.” (Photo by The Village Sun)

Family members and friends who have tragically lost loved ones to traffic crashes lashed out at the mayor and politicians, saying only immediate action — not empty words — will finally make the streets safe.

As one speaker put it, fatal crashes occur “because the driver refuses to wait one second — to get where? Nowhere. Who knows [where they’re even going]?”

Debbie and Harold Kahn wear bracelets in memory of their son, Seth, who was killed by a bus in Hell’s Kitchen. (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

Debbie and Harold Kahn lost their son, Seth Jay Kahn, in November 2009 when he was struck from behind by a turning M.T.A. bus as he was crossing the street at Ninth Avenue and 53rd Street. They said the bus’s operator had been fired for texting while driving but that the union got him reinstated after a week of retraining. It was the driver’s first day back on the job.

Seth, who was a month shy of 23, was studying toy design at F.I.T. He was their only child.

Debbie Kahn wears the Kermit ring of her late son, who loved the Muppets character. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“When we started this fight, we were making gains,” his mother said of the Vision Zero quest. “Then it reversed. That hasn’t happened in the rest of the country.”

At the rally’s conclusion, a cyclist in the crowd started a chant, shouting, “What do we want?” eliciting the response, “Safe streets!”

“When do we want it?” he shouted. Everyone else shouted back, “Now!”

One Comment

  1. JackDog JackDog September 24, 2021

    Vision Zero has been IRRATIONAL from the jump. Charles Komanoff and money man Mark Gorton have perpetrated an exercise in ZEALOTRY on the New York City public. We the people are hoist on their own petard.

    Based on some alleged study in the outback of Australia TA promotes the myth that the more bikes on the street, the safer the streets. 20 years of rogue bike riding have put the lie to that delusional thinking. Built on that deadly foolishness TA with hubris prevailed on the administrations of Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio to keep the NYPD on a short leash for enforcement. The THINKING(?) is that if there is less enforcement there will be more bike riders and more bikes on the streets.

    However lofty the fantasy the facts have clearly shown TA with its hubris and zealotry is fatally flawed.

    No environmental impact study was ever conducted. The Department of Transportation and the brain trust knew best. TA and DOT refused to participate in a task force called for in 2010 by the office of Borough President Scott Stringer. The NYU Rudin Center had conducted a study that came up with one conclusion.

    That being the only way to establish a RESPONSIBLE BIKE CULTURE is to employ a cooperative effort. Trans Alt and her royal hubris former DOT Commissioner Janeette Sadik Khan KNEW BETTER.

    Then Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh told me, “The reason there is no enforcement is because Transportation Alternatives doesn’t want it.”

    Professor John Pucher, an internationally recognized transportation expert and cycling advocate, told me, “I told them NOT TO DO THAT.”

    Vision Zero has been fundamentally anti-cop, anti-Robert Moses and anti-car from the beginning. The NYPD has been undermined. Lawless bike riding has been accepted as the price of going green.

    As a veteran of the bike industry I say this is tantamount to negligent homicide. Balderdash! Transportation Alternatives is helmed by Sophist-in-Chief Charles Komanoff and money man Mark Gorton. Both Harvard alumni.

    Clearly this public safety catastrophe is not Harvard’s finest hour.

    Under the guise of going green — much of which has been vitiated by the trend toward electric vehicles — here is the sequence that has resulted from the Trumplike distortion of the facts employed by Trans Alt.

    With the implementation of bike lanes, bike racks and quieting zones New York has
    world-class congestion. Prior to the pandemic numerous businesses were going belly up. Delivery was hindered and made more expensive from tickets. Billions in lost business was predicted.

    Emergency response times were increased due to congestion and reduced access lanes.

    New York now has a congestion tax. This is something that Charles Komanoff has advocated for years.

    There are sheds occupying parking spaces to help restaurants make it through the pandemic hard times. Said to be temporary now attempting to be made permanent by real estate interests. Taking public space for private purpose. More rent.

    TA is in accord because the sheds discourage the use of motor vehicles. This makes the sidewalks a gymkana. Wait staff, pedestrians, patrons and the omnipresent two-wheeled delivery agents who have aggregated the sidewalks as their own are all vying for concrete. Chaos. Commercial chaos.

    The quality of life has been bludgeoned in the Big Apple. The public has been turned into creatures that need eyes in the back of their heads. Many bike riders operate with an arrogance and impunity that results from lack of a responsible bike culture.

    Vision Zero is aptly named. New York City has been taken for a ride. The mayors for their own purposes are greatly complicit.

    The streets and sidewalks are not safer for anyone.

    Transportation Alternatives is zealotry not visionary.

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