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.
— Tri-State (@Tri_State) December 5, 2013
“To achieve his Vision Zero goal, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is smart
to appoint Bill Bratton to lead
— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) December 5, 2013
But the honeymoon didn’t last long.
— Tri-State (@Tri_State) January 15, 2014
In response to pedestrian fatalities, NYPD cracks down on jaywalkers. This is ass backwards. http://t.co/36PtdupKT1
— Gawker (@Gawker) January 20, 2014
Bratton even defended the actions of two officers who roughed up an 84-year-old pedestrian on the Upper West Side.
Bratton defended officers’ handling of an 84-year-old man left bloodied in a confrontation with cops over jaywalking. http://t.co/Z9CMnedJ65
— WNYC (@WNYC) January 21, 2014
But traffic fatalities were down, and by April, the city’s new Vision Zero initiative seemed to be working.
— Tri-State (@Tri_State) April 3, 2014
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…
NYPD to Start Ticketing Bicyclists http://t.co/kQ9JdVEVSz
— NYC Politics (@PoliticsInNYC) August 14, 2014
…and, strangely, the Times Square pedestrian plazas.
Here’s Bill Bratton on Times Square pedestrian plazas: “I’d prefer to just dig the whole damn thing up.” http://t.co/4DsQzkoYdm
— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) August 20, 2015
Bratton has a point. There are no topless women on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Let's replicate that success story! http://t.co/NsEbRYnWz2
— Aaron Naparstek (@Naparstek) August 20, 2015
— Tri-State (@Tri_State) August 27, 2015
Though, fortunately it was short lived.
— Tri-State (@Tri_State) September 22, 2015
— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) February 5, 2016
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.”
Police Commissioner Bratton can't see zero traffic deaths under de Blasio's Vision Zero plan https://t.co/KcJgh4b6KM
— NYDN Transit (@NYDNTransit) March 11, 2016
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.