Michael DenDekker: Slowing NYC Drivers Is a Pointless Waste

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker, the Queens rep who once proposed legislation to register cyclists and monitor them with bike lane cameras, says efforts to slow city drivers under Vision Zero are pointless. DenDekker wants an audit of Vision Zero spending, which he reportedly believes is wasted unless it’s going toward traffic signals to eliminate motorist-pedestrian conflicts at intersections.

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker
Assembly Member Michael DenDekker

DenDekker’s remarks were reported by Katie Honan at DNAinfo. DenDekker wasn’t available to talk with us today, but in the DNAinfo story he dismissed the effectiveness of speed cameras, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes to calm traffic. What the city should do, he said, is concentrate on converting intersections to Barnes Dance-style crossings, with pedestrians and motorists crossing at separate times.

“How much are you spending now on bike lanes and other traffic calming effects like putting medians in and doing slow zones and all the other stuff you are spending money on?” he said.

“All of the stuff that Vision Zero has done would not have done anything to save the two children that got killed on Northern Boulevard.”

DenDekker, who represents parts of Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, was referring to Miguel Torres and Noshat Nahian, two children killed on Northern Boulevard by drivers who failed to yield. The official Vision Zero unveiling and Mayor de Blasio’s subsequent traffic safety bill signing event both took place at PS 152, in DenDekker’s district, where Noshat was a student.

It is true that drivers who fail to yield while turning pose a great risk to New York City pedestrians. But eliminating traffic deaths isn’t a matter of choosing one solution or another. DenDekker either doesn’t realize or refuses to acknowledge that Vision Zero is a comprehensive program, encompassing improvements to engineering as well as enforcement and education.

Speeding is the leading cause of death in New York City traffic crashes, so it’s ludicrous for DenDekker to declare that there is no use for automated enforcement and other infrastructure to slow motor vehicle traffic. Speeding drivers pose a significant risk to everyone on the street, including other motorists.

Protected bike lanes have shown to reduce crashes and injuries for all street users. And of course, many pedestrians are struck by drivers who are not turning. Drivers killed at least two people on Northern Boulevard in 2014 alone in crashes that did not involve a turn, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

The fact is the physical traffic-calming elements that serve as the underpinning to Vision Zero are proven to improve safety for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives in NYC. DenDekker’s dismissal of Vision Zero’s multi-faceted approach to safety simply isn’t supported by fact.


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