Looking Back on the Bratton Years

Image: @leekimnyc/Twitter

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will step down at the end of the month, so we thought we’d take a look back on his tenure to see what kind of impact he’s had on traffic safety in the five boroughs.

At the start, advocates were optimistic.

But the honeymoon didn’t last long.

In the first weeks of 2014, his department was hard at work cracking down on so-called “jaywalkers.”

Bratton even defended the actions of two officers who roughed up an 84-year-old pedestrian on the Upper West Side.

But traffic fatalities were down, and by April, the city’s new Vision Zero initiative seemed to be working.

And by the end of 2014, pedestrian deaths for a single year in New York City had hit a record low. So the focus turned to bicyclists…

…and, strangely, the Times Square pedestrian plazas.

Though, fortunately it was short lived.

And for a second straight year, traffic deaths fell in New York City, a testament to Vision Zero.

The hope of achieving a third consecutive year of falling traffic deaths seemed less likely after Commissioner Bratton spoke at the Vision Zero for Cities conference last March. In an interview with the New York Times’ Jill Abramson, he continually used the word “accident” to describe traffic crashes and dismissed the city’s Vision Zero initiative as little more than a “nice goal to aspire to.”

Traffic deaths fell in the first five months of 2016, but after a particularly deadly June, we’re on track to see more fatalities on New York City streets this year than in 2015. And after two deadly crashes in Williamsburg last month, we can’t help but wonder if Bratton has done enough to change the NYPD’s culture.

If there’s anything we can learn from Bratton’s tenure, it’s that city leaders who are serious about eliminating traffic deaths must make sure police are fully on board. Yes, traffic deaths fell in the two years following the launch of Vision Zero, but it’s not clear to what extent Commissioner Bratton deserves credit.

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