De Blasio Talks Vision Zero on WNYC

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer started off his Friday “Ask the Mayor” segment with Bill de Blasio by taking questions about Vision Zero. No earthshaking news came up, but it’s always interesting to hear how the mayor conveys messages about street safety and urban mobility to the public.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

The first call came from a woman upset over the city’s focus on motor vehicle enforcement. “All of the penalties and all of the enforcement come down on drivers,” she told de Blasio. “With the city, it seems like they’re afraid of upsetting the bikers lobby or pedestrians.”

De Blasio, who earlier in the segment had called enforcement an “education” tool to shape driver behavior, did not mince words. He said that the city would enforce cycling laws, but that pedestrians and cyclists aren’t the source of the problem

The greatest degree of danger comes from motor vehicles. That’s 100 percent clear. That’s historically where the vast majority of death and injuries come from — is someone using their motor vehicle in an inappropriate fashion. We don’t give a speeding ticket when someone speeds. We don’t give a failure to yield ticket when someone yields. Let’s be blunt: If people are breaking the law and putting others in danger, I’m not going to back down on that. We’re going to go, in fact, do more enforcement of that.

A bicyclist who endangers others, of course we’re going to enforce. The amount of damage they can do is not the same as what a car can do or a truck can do, but of course we’re going to enforce that.

Another caller said she had been hit by a driver and asked how the city is making pedestrian crossings safer. De Blasio pointed to Queens Boulevard as an example of how his administration is redesigning dangerous streets. “Changing the design of intersections, changing the sequencing of the lights, giving more time for pedestrians to cross before any traffic is allowed — these are the things we’re increasingly implementing,” he said.

Lehrer also asked whether the city is considering implementing more “Barnes Dance” signals, which give pedestrians an exclusive phase in all directions, with no. De Blasio pivoted to emphasize the relation between safe streets and helping people get around without a car. “We have to keep things moving — that’s true, except when we come to the conclusion that, practically speaking, we can achieve greater safety without paralyzing the place,” he said. “I want to remind you, I’ve said this before, what we have to do more and more of in our society is get out of our cars.”

De Blasio then talked up city-funded initiatives of varying merit — ferry service, the BQX Streetcar, and Citi Bike — before concluding: “The goal should be to get out of your car whenever possible — [to] not use your car, choose another options. That’s something we have to keep pushing no matter what else we do.”