Tracking Progress: April 2015


Fatalities.  There were nine traffic fatalities in Queens in April, including six vehicle occupants, one cyclist, and two pedestrians. At least two people were killed by hit-and-run drivers: a 61-year-old pedestrian on April 1st in Flushing, and Mohamed Ali, an 88-year-old cyclist on April 16th in South Ozone Park. In the 12 months ending April 2015, there have been 85 overall traffic fatalities in Queens, down 9% from the 93 people killed in 2013, the Vision Zero benchmark year. Citywide, there has been a 17% decline in fatalities.

Injuries.  In the 12 months ending in April 2015, there have been 2,454 pedestrians injured in Queens by motor vehicles, a decline of 12% from the Vision Zero benchmark year, 2013. In the same time, there have been 798 injuries to cyclists, a reduction of 3% since 2013. Overall, including motor vehicle occupants, there have been 14,703 people injured in motor vehicle crashes in Queens over the past year, down 5% since 2013. Citiwide, there has been a 9% reduction in injuries.

Enforcement.  Across Queens, several NYPD stepped up enforcement actions against speeding this month. Highlights of Vision Zero enforcement in April included citations for failure to yield right of way to pedestrians by the 102nd Precinct, speeding in the 105th Precinct, and red light running in the 108th Precinct.

But the overall trend is that Vision Zero traffic enforcement against drivers who speed, run red lights, and fail to yield to pedestrians appears to have peaked in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, and may even be on the decline (enforcement in Manhattan and the Bronx continues to rise). Enforcement actions against drivers using handheld cell phones continue to decline sharply.  Given the very modest progress that has been made so far in reducing traffic fatalities and injuries, we’re hoping that NYPD can reinvigorate enforcement on all four of these categories before school lets out for the summer.

See our full report here, including results by borough and community board.

Traffic safety awareness at IS 230


By Cristina Furlong

On Tuesday, April 28th, students from IS 230, The Magnet School for Civics, in Jackson Heights celebrated the completion of an innovative traffic safety program. The Traffic Safety Sign Design Program pairs safety educators from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the arts-advocacy group Groundswell to create site specific and beautiful traffic signs for school zones. The 7th grade “Art Talent Class” at IS 230 spent weeks with artist Chris Soria, safety educator Julia Glauboch, as well as their art teacher, Ms. Bonilla to create the work. The program included a neighborhood traffic survey and a trip to the DOT sign making shop in Maspeth, where up to 12,000 signs are fabricated each month.

“This school year, DOT safety educators have been reaching out to middle school students, one of the most vulnerable groups for traffic related injury. “ said Theresa Berry DOT Safety Education and Outreach Director of Special Events for Vision Zero. “Vision Zero accepts no traffic fatality as inevitable. The success of Vision Zero involves fully engaging the public to become part of the solution”. Berry said.

The partnership of DOT and IS 230 has been going strong for about a year, since Make Queens Safer members provided information on DOT programs to the former PTA president. It was arranged that Safety Educators would come to the school and address parents at a PTA meeting. Last fall, students participated in the Make Queens Safer street fair and traffic study, for which they received community participation credits for class.

Dr. Laura Newman, from Make Queens Safer spoke about the incredible partnerships and community that were involved in the process. Dr. Newman recognized that IS 230 had lost a former classmate, Luis Bravo to a hit and run driver over a year ago. In his honor, 2015 will mark the first year of the Luis Bravo scholarship to a graduating 8th grader. The school was fully engaged through participation from the parent coordinator, guidance counselor, principal, art, civics, social studies, band and math classes, highlighting the fact that safety education can be incorporated into common core curriculum in many ways.

Students spoke about the experience being a long lasting one for them, whether it was the new awareness of traffic safety, the enormity of the sign-making process of New York City, or the collaborative creative process.

“At Groundswell, we like to say that art creates community, and community creates change” said deputy director Sharon Polli. The creative process begins with a challenge. The challenge that all of you faced was how to work together to create a dual image that increases safety awareness and prevents accidents around your school.” You have created change. The message you have all created will resonate with thousands of community residents and your fellow students.”

Other members of the DOT present were Kim Wiley-Schwartz, Assistant Commissioner of Safety Education, and Marjorie Marciano, DOT Vision Zero safety educator. “You have a right to be safe on your walk to school” Wiley-Schwartz said.

Make Queens Safer is hoping to make contacts with manis230.3y more schools in Queens to help facilitate the implementation of safety programs for students of all ages. Beyond the DOT, there are many resources for parents, teachers and students.

In the coming year, we hope to create resources for parents and concerned neighbors to report unsafe conditions and have a platform for which to make changes. Specifically, implementing safe procedures for arrival and dismissal, ensuring crossing guards for dangerous intersections, promoting walking and biking to school, and increasing the well-being and participation of school communities as it relates to traffic safety.

If you are interested in working with your school to have a traffic safety program or presentation, don’t hesitate to contact us via facebook message, or for tips and resources.

Town Hall on Move NY Fair Plan

The Move NY Fair Plan is a proposal to address chronic funding shortages to keep our transit and roadway systems in a state of good repair, and to begin investing in much-needed improvements in the city by establishing tolls on the city’s free East River Bridges and at 60th Street in Manhattan.  A key feature of the plan is that it would reduce tolls by more than 40% on other key bridges used by Queens residents, including the RFK Bridge, the Throgs Neck Bridge, and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.  More information on the plan is available on the Move NY website.

Make Queens Safer has been following this proposal with great interest because of its potential to reduce dangerous through traffic on neighborhood arterials in Western Queens, including Northern Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue, and Queens Boulevard.  Currently, many vehicles use these routes to reach the free Queensboro Bridge, in order to avoid tolls on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the RFK Bridge.  Under the Move NY Fair Plan, the incentive to do this will be eliminated, helping improve conditions on these dangerous streets.

On Thursday, May 14, 2015 at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, Make Queens Safer will be co-hosting a community forum on the Move NY Fair Plan, with Friends of Diversity Plaza, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, and the New Visions Democratic Club, as well as Councilmember Daniel Dromm and State Senator Jose Peralta.  Come hear a presentation on the plan, and bring your questions.


Tracking Progress: March 2015


Street safety in Queens continues to improve. In the 12 months ending in March 2015, there have been 2,469 pedestrians injured in Queens by motor vehicles, a decline of 12% from the Vision Zero benchmark year, 2013. In the same time, there have been 795 injuries to cyclists, a reduction of 4% since 2013. Overall, including motor vehicle occupants, there have been 14,708 people injured in motor vehicle crashes in Queens over the past year, down 5% since 2013. Citiwide, there has been a 9% reduction in injuries.

There were two traffic fatalities on Queens streets in March. This is the lowest total since April 2013. The two fatalities were Robert Walker, who died when his car struck a median on the Belt Parkway in Jamaica; and an 80-year-old woman who was struck while crossing Astoria Boulevard in Jackson Heights. In the 12 months ending March 2015, overall traffic fatalities in Queens are are down 9% from 2013. Citywide, there has been a 16% decline in fatalities.

In many precincts across the borough, the NYPD stepped up enforcement actions against drivers running red lights, and continued last month’s trend of stronger enforecement actions against failing to yield right of way to pedestrians.

See our full report here, including results by borough and community board.

Tracking Progress: February 2015


February was a bad month for pedestrian fatalities. Five pedestrians were killed on by motor vehicles on the streets of Queens, the highest tally since October.  Nonetheless, many fewer pedestrians and cyclists were injured by motor vehicles in Queens this month than at any time in over three years. There were 164 pedestrian and cyclist injuries, sharply fewer than the 220 injuries in February 2014.   The short month and cold weather were certainly factors, but hopefully this at least partially reflects a trend that can be sustained as the weather warms.

Across the borough, many NYPD precincts notably stepped up enforecement actions against drivers failing to yield right of way to pedestrians, most notably precincts 103, 104, 108, 109, 110, and 112.

Precincts 108, 112, 115 continued their trend of increasing enforcement against speeding.

See our full report here, including results by borough and community board.

Tracking Progress: January 2015

Queens-2015-01To kick off 2015, we’re launching a new dashboard to track Vision Zero progress in every community board in the borough of Queens. Check it out here.

There are a few key changes from the way were were tracking progress last year. It’s based on the same NYPD data, but we’ve organized results by community board rather than precinct. Also, instead of measuring traffic enforcement and injuries/fatalities as a year-to-date statistic, we’re now tracking it as a rolling 12-month total. At any given point in time, we’re looking at how we’ve done over the past year relative to the total for 2013, the year Mayor de Blasio set as the city’s Vision Zero baseline.

We’re releasing this report without a lot of analysis this month. We published a detailed review of the results for 2014 last month, and will be publishing this new tracker on a monthly basis throughout 2015. Please let us know what you think at MakeQueensSafer (at)

One final note. We see that NYPD has improved the quality of the datasets that it posts on its website. The files now separate crashes on city streets from those that occur on highways. It is also possible to track every crash back to the precinct where it occurred. Thank you, NYPD, for this improvement.

Kidical Mass Forum

Join the Kidical Mass Forum
Saturday, January 31st, 2015, 10 am – Noon
Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81st Street, Jackson Heights

The forum will feature discussion of how to get your kids and your family cycling safely in the city.   Please join us!


Fifteen Wishes for 2015

In 2015, we’d love to see…

  1. Publication of a strategic plan for advancing Vision Zero in Queens, including a priority action list for trouble spots the NYCDOT intends to focus on.
  2. Development of a comprehensive school access safety initiative, focusing on development of a best practices manual, identification of needs, implementation of design improvements, improved resource allocation for crossing guards and transportation safety agents, and provision of technical assistance on arrival and dismissal procedures.
  3. Election of a Queens District Attorney who is serious about making our streets safer, and uses all tools available to get drunk, reckless, and negligent drivers off the road.
  4. NYPD enforcement of new state and city laws designed to protect the public from unsafe and negligent drivers.
  5. Action in Albany on critical reforms being advanced by Families for Safe Streets to address dangerous drivers:
  • A mandatory three-month license suspension for serious offenses while driving
  • Changes to the DMV point system so that higher point values apply to violations where someone is seriously injured or killed, and drivers cannot use adjournments to push points outside the 18-month window and avoid suspension
  • A mandatory license suspension of at least three months for commercial drivers who accrue six or more penalty points
  • Mandatory, prompt and publicly-noticed safety hearings at which victims, their families, and NYPD crash investigators can attend, present evidence and make statements; quarterly reporting of aggregate safety hearing outcomes and other statistics
  • DMV adoption of the equivalent of the Federal Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights for the families of crash victim
  1. Action in Albany to authorize expanded red light camera and speed camera enforcement
  2. Expanded safety education for kids, building on NYCDOT’s excellent outreach to schools and completion of a new Safety City site in Queens.
  3. Bicycle safety education for cyclists of all ages, including “family safe cycling” classes – plus development of education strategies for driving safely near bicycles for both commercial and non-commercial drivers.
  4. A visionary plan from NYCDOT to transform Queens Boulevard into a complete street that is safe for all users and enhances the quality of life of the communities it passes through
  5. Initiation of a capital planning process for a greener and safer Northern Boulevard from LIC through Flushing
  6. A redesigned 111th Street to provide safer access to Flushing Meadows Corona Park
  7. An expanded bicycle lane network in Western Queens
  8. A commitment to expand the greenway network in Eastern Queens, especially the Southeast Queens Greenway and the Motor Parkway Greenway
  9. A world-class bus rapid transit plan for Woodhaven Boulevard with a strong focus on improving pedestrian safety.
  10. A safe 2015 for all!

Vision Zero at One

Before looking to the year ahead, it’s helpful to look back at where we’ve been.

First, the big picture is important.  Overall, the safety of New York City’s streets has been improving.   In 1971, there were nearly 1,000 traffic deaths in NYC – half of whom were pedestrians.  Between 1916 and 1993, there was never a year with fewer than 500 traffic deaths in the city.  Since 1993, we have never again surpassed 500 fatalities.   In 2011, the city hit a record low of 249 fatalities.

At the same time, the culture was changing.   The idea that streets are public spaces that can enhance the life of the city, and shouldn’t be operated exclusively for the storage and movement of vehicles, began to take hold for the first time in decades.   People began to demand and expect that streets should be safe and livable.  And the culture of city government began to change as well, responding to this public expectation by redesigning streets to safely accommodate all users.

But amid this changing culture and evolving expectations, things began to move in the wrong direction.  Fatalities jumped to 277 in 2012 and 293 in 2013.   Transportation advocates like StreetsPAC began asking political candidates pointed questions about their commitment to improving street safety and Transportation Alternatives began educating the public about Sweden’s “Vision Zero” initiative.   And in late 2013, NYC voters elected a mayoral candidate and a new majority in the City Council deeply committed to safer streets.

At the same time, there was a heartbreaking rash of children being killed on streets all around the city – a trend that jolted the public’s attention.  Responding to the repeated trauma of losing children to traffic violence, concerned neighbors and mourning families organized the Three Children Too Many march and vigil in Jackson Heights, and then began to form a new group to support local efforts boroughwide – and Make Queens Safer was born.  And still the tragedies kept coming, as the neighborhood lost yet another child to a reckless driver in late December.  The year 2013 couldn’t have ended on a more discouraging note.

The death toll from traffic violence in 2014 was unbearable as well, but it was also a year of hope for a better future.   Here’s a timeline of key developments for Queens in 2014:

  • January 1: As Bill de Blasio was inaugurated, Make Queens Safer, Make Brooklyn Safer, and Transportation Alternatives celebrated by thanking him for his commitment to Vision Zero, carrying a large “Vision Zero Starts Today” banner near City Hall. They were immediately and warmly greeted by Polly Trottenberg, the incoming DOT commissioner.
  • January 15: Mayor de Blasio came to PS 152 in Woodside, near where a child was killed a few weeks earlier, to reaffirm his policy commitment to Vision Zero and launch the process of developing an implementation plan. MQS called the policy announcement “historic” but noted a key omission – the lack of focus on safer access to schools.  MQS began advocating for a school access component of Vision Zero.
  • January/February: Sadly, there were more vigils to be held, including a memorial on the anniversary of the death of Ella Bandes in Ridgewood and a vigil for Angela Hurtado in Elmhurst. Both had strong participation by local elected officials (including Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Marge Markey, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Councilmember Mark Weprin), who comforted mourners and advocated for changes in state and local law to hold unlicensed drivers accountable. After multiple-injury hit & run crash on Northern Blvd, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Sen. Mike Gianaris called for the city to focus on Northern Blvd. safety and Van Bramer advocated stronger penalties for hit and run drivers.
  • In February, Mayor de Blasio released the city’s new Vision Zero Action Plan: “We refuse to accept the loss of children, parents and neighbors as inevitable.” Throughout the spring, NYCDOT, NYPD, and various elected officials held town hall meetings and workshops around Queens, including in Jackson Heights, Long Island City, Astoria, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica, and Far Rockaway.
  • Also in February, Families for Safe Streets was founded to serve as the voice for families that have had loved ones killed or injured by motor vehicles in NYC. They and other groups around the city launched the “20 is Plenty” campaign to reduce the city’s speed limit.  In May, they and other concerned citizens participated in a Vision Zero lobbying day in Albany.
  • In March, after Kumar Ragunath was killed in Long Island City, Van Bramer and Gianaris called for hit and run drivers to be brought to justice. In September, Van Bramer won passage of the Justice for Hit and Run Victims Act, which imposes civil penalties of up to $10,000 on drivers who leave the scene of a crash.
  • In April, the city council began holding hearings on Vision Zero implementation.
  • In July, Transportation Alternatives, Make the Road New York, Make Queens Safer and other groups held a Vision Zero Workshop in Corona, in an event sponsored by Councilmemeber Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm. This bilingual event reached communities that were not well represented in the city’s outreach efforts.  This forum led to a new effort to bring safer pedestrian and bicycle access into Flushing Meadows Corona Park and along 111th Street.
  • In September, Make Queens Safer, Bike New York, NYCDOT, NYPD, and other groups held a Safer Greener Streets Fair in Jackson Heights, including a bike swap, helmet giveaway, bike repair, short film festival, and bike safety rodeo, as well as a Kid Engineers Traffic Study that examined speeding and other safety issues on 34th Avenue.
  • In October, after years of advocacy and coalition building by Transportation Alternatives and others, NYCDOT signaled that it is willing to consider major design changes to Queens Boulevard, a longstanding priority in many neighborhoods along its length.

Over the course of 2014, NYCDOT expanded its Neighborhood Slow Zones program to Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Woodside, thanks to the leadership of councilmembers Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.  NYCDOT also rolled out a new Arterial Slow Zones program with lower speed limits and targeted enforcement on Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica Av., Queens Blvd., Roosevelt Av., and Northern Blvd.  It also implemented important pedestrian safety improvements on College Point Avenue in Flushing; Hillside & Homelawn in Jamaica; Greenpoint & 48th in Sunnyside; Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City; BQE, 37th & Broadway in Woodside; Myrtle & Wyckoff in Ridgewood; and Northern Boulevard in Western Queens.

Throughout the year, we also saw leadership by elected officials at all levels of government:

  • In the city council, virtually the entire Queens delegation contributed to making our streets safer, either leading the drive for legislation or by advocating for safety improvements in their districts. Particular champions this year have included Jimmy Van Bramer, Daniel Dromm, and Julissa Ferreras.  The City Council passed Van Bramer’s hit-and-run law, a citywide 25 mph speed limit, bills to suspend licenses of unsafe taxi drivers, and make it a misdemeanor to hit a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right-of-way.
  • In Albany, the state legislature authorized New York City to reduce its speed limit to 25 mph and to install more speed cameras in school zones. Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Marge Markey fought unsuccessfully for legislation that would make it a felony to drive with a suspended license when someone is killed or seriously injured in the process.  Senator José Peralta advocated on behalf of constituents trying to improve school access safety.  Other strong voices this year included Toby Ann Stavisky, Nily Rozic, and Francisco Moya.
  • And in Washington, Congressman Joseph Crowley and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand promoted federal pedestrian safety legislation.

What did not happen in 2014?

  • While NYCDOT worked admirably hard throughout 2014 to collect data and input on Vision Zero needs, we did not see a clear strategy emerge or very many new projects that were not already in the pipeline. We understand that these things take time, and are hopeful that a strategic plan will be released in 2015.
  • NYPD did not appear to significantly change their procedures concerning when to charge drivers who strike pedestrians and cyclists; the city’s District Attorneys did not appear interested at all in enforcing the law as it concerns criminal recklessness and negligence by drivers; and the DMV continued to fail to live up to its responsibility to delicense dangerous drivers.

By the end of the year, the grim tally of traffic fatalities on the city’s streets and highways stood at 250, nearly matching the low achieved in 2011.  There are several efforts underway to compile the names of these victims of traffic violence so that they can be remembered and their stories told (see memorial pages by WNYC, Streetsblog, and Make Queens Safer).  This total included 154 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, a record low.  In Queens, there were 88 fatalities (47 pedestrians and cyclists).  While it is a tremendous relief that the growing carnage of the past two years has been reversed, there is still a long way to go.  See our statistical review of 2014 progress here.

The collective action and attention of community groups and elected officials brought a level of understanding and commitment that certainly helped raise awareness and push through important legislation.  It also helped bring about change locally as citizens and community boards learned more and grew more comfortable with the “toolkit” of strategies the city is using to improve dangerous streets and intersections.  In 2015, as Queens continues to rise as a popular destination for living and visiting, we will continue to look to our local elected officials, our community boards, and Borough President Melinda Katz for energetic leadership on these issues.  A commitment to seeking justice for traffic victims, attendance at key planning sessions and public awareness events, and constructive engagement with DOT to advance much-needed street redesigns, will all aid in making our streets and arterial roadways safer for everyone.

Tracking Vision Zero Progress in 2014


The first year of Vision Zero in Queens was a qualified success.    The borough had 88 traffic fatalities, a 5% reduction from 2013, but still more than the number of fatalities in 2012.  To meet Mayor de Blasio’s goal of zero traffic fatalities in a decade, higher rates of decline will be needed in future years.

Boroughwide there were about 3,443 ped/cyclist injuries and fatalities in 2014, about 6.5% fewer than last year.  Citywide, pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities declined by 6.9%.  In five Queens precincts (104, 109, 110, 111, and 113) ped/cyclist injuries and fatalities dropped by more than 10%. The greatest improvement was the 20% drop in ped/cyclist injuries/fatalities in the 111th Precinct (Bayside).

In addition, there were about 11,404 injuries and fatalities among motorists and passengers in Queens, about 4.4% lower than in 2013. This figure fell by 7.4% citywide.   Five Queens precincts (100, 101, 104, 107, and 115) saw reductions of 10% or more. The greatest improvement was the 22% drop in vehicle occupant injuries/fatalities in the 101st Precinct (the Rockaways).

Traffic enforcement rates in Queens dropped in December but remained significantly higher overall for 2014 relative to last year:

  • NYPD issues 21% more tickets for red light running (failure to stop at signal) in Queens than last year (the citywide increase was 30%).  With a 97% increase over 2013, the 112th Precinct (Forest Hills/Rego Park) registered the greatest increase in red light enforcement effort of any precinct in Queens.
  • Tickets for speeding in Queens were up about 69% from last year (citywide, these tickets were up 42%). This excludes speed camera violations in school zones, which are new this year and growing rapidly as more cameras are deployed. The greatest increase in speeding enforcement was been in the 104th Precinct (Glendale/Ridgewood/Maspeth), which increased speeding citations by 293% over 2013.
  • Tickets for Failure to Yield to Pedestrians rose by 104% in Queens and 126% citywide. Enforcement improved most notably in the 112th Precinct (Forest Hills/Rego Park), where it increased by 240% over last year.
  • Enforcement against illegal cell phone use while driving fell 20% from last year in Queens, and fell 16% citywide. The 102nd Precinct (Kew Gardens/Richmond Hill/Woodhaven) was the only one in Queens with higher enforcement levels in 2014 than in 2013.

Queens outpaced the city as a whole in increasing enforcement against speeding.  It lagged the city as a whole in reduction of traffic injuries, and enforcement of failure to stop at signals, failure to yield to pedestrians, and driving while using cell phones.

NYPD’s enforcement actions are a critical contributor to reductions in injury and fatality rates, but not the only factor.   Education and engineering are also tremendously important.   Furthermore, evolving traffic patterns and pedestrian activity levels in different neighborhoods will cause unpredictable changes in their traffic injury rates from year to year.   As a result, we do not expect to see a strong statistical relationship between enforcement actions and reductions in injury rates in any particular precinct.  We do not believe that these data can be used to draw meaningful conclusions about the effectiveness of NYPD’s enforcement efforts.

Here’s our full report.  These precincts led the way in Queens in 2014: