What De Blasio’s Early Appointments Could Mean for Transportation Policy and Safety

Mayor-elect de Blasio’s appointment of William J. Bratton as NYPD Commissioner and Anthony Shorris as First Deputy Mayor could be an intentional signal to livable streets advocates that pedestrian and bicyclist safety will be a priority for the administration.

The Mayor-elect has noted that “one crash is too many.” The same goes for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities — because these are preventable deaths. Nearly 2,000 pedestrians have been fatally struck by cars in NYC since 2002, along with nearly 150 cyclists. The enforcement of speeding and reckless driving falls under the purview of the NYPD, so Bratton’s appointment is key to fulfilling de Blasio’s vision to reduce fatalities and injuries to zero. However, the philosophy for how streets balance the needs of residents, workers and visitors is established in City Hall, not at “1PP.”

Although it’s still unknown who will be the City’s next transportation commissioner, de Blasio’s appointment of Anthony Shorris to First Deputy Mayor is a positive sign. Shorris brings some strong transportation credentials to City Hall: he is a former director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and former Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ. Shorris also provided critical pedestrian safety research that resulted in NYC DOT’s groundbreaking Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan.

The continued evolution of New York City’s streets depends on a combination of smart, multimodal planning and better enforcement of drivers who flout the law. The continued re-engineering of our streets to safely accommodate all users must be supported by a police force that, for example, knows that driving onto a sidewalk and maiming pedestrians should result in a stiffer penalty than riding a bicycle on a sidewalk.

The streets of New York City can serve as a timeline of change. Decades ago, cars, exhaust, congestion and noise characterized our streets, serving as a reflection of NYC’s grime and grit. Today, greener streets have sprouted, sowed by the unified support across many sectors: transportation, environmental, health and business. The past decade shows a shift toward streets that better reflect the needs of a changing city with more emphasis on walking, biking and transit. The people of New York City have put their confidence in the hands of Bill de Blasio for improved quality of life and a different city. What will our streets say about NYC’s progress in the next four years of this timeline?

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