In January 2014, Cooper Stock, a 9 year old from Manhattan was walking across an Upper West Side Street holding his father’s hand. Then the unimaginable happened and was struck by one of those familiar NYC yellow cabs. A day later a 32 year-old mother of two was struck by a drunk driver in the Bronx.
Within the first 12 days of 2014 there had been 7 pedestrian fatalities on our New York City streets which put the 2014 fatalities count on pace to be the highest total that New York City would ever see. Once elected to office, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to act fast by creating the Vision Zero Plan, which plans to reduce the fatalities and serious injuries in the next Ten Years to zero. The Plan’s approach is to increase the amount of 20-mph “slow zones”, increase enforcement of reckless driving, and redesign 50 dangerous intersections and corridors a year.
This Vision Zero Plan sounds great and all, but what does this mean to the common New Yorker walking the streets? Sure Mayor de Blasio has increased harsher penalties for reckless driving, but he has increased harsher penalties for broken rules for pedestrians on the walkways by enforcing a “no-tolerance policy”.
After Vision Zero had been put into effect, two teenage girls were struck by a car while trying to cross a busy street. The girls were taken to the hospital, had doctors all over them, putting needles and IVs in their arms when an hour after the accident two Brooklyn Police officers delivered jaywalking citations to the 16 year-olds as they lay in their hospital beds.
Pedestrians in New York are viewed to be naïve, selfish, and in some ways crazy. Mayor de Blasio gives the pedestrians the right of way, but pushes for those pedestrians to have the responsibility and ethical acumen for fairness to the other modes of transportation on the streets as well.
As New Yorkers we are naturally in a hurry. We live in this rat race where we are constantly living life by the minute; needing to catch the subway, make it in time for our soccer game, or even rushing to the local bar to make the happy hour deal. But, what we have to learn is that there is no greater value to us than ourselves. Mayor de Blasio is doing us a great justice to bring the pedestrian death toll down to zero, but in reality we know that is going to be close to impossible.
What he gave us was a way to improve our mindset for safety, to abide by the rules, and the realization that at any moment, one mishap can shape the rest of our lives.