De Blasio endorses a Swedish approach to road safety

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Traffic at night. (Vision Zero Initiative)
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Marking another step in his evolution from bike-lane critic to alt-transit diehard, Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio has endorsed a Swedish philosophy on traffic safety for New York City streets that would restrain drivers from speeding.

"There is no level of death or injury that New Yorkers should accept on our public streets," reads the campaign document issued this morning. "The City must take decisive and sustained action to reduce street fatalities each year until we have achieved 'Vision Zero'—a city with zero fatalities or serious injuries caused by car crashes on the streets of New York."

Since Sweden implemented Vision Zero in the 1990s, it has seen traffic fatalities drop

The concept is relatively simple: drivers are human and humans make mistakes, so roads should be designed to minimize the opportunity for and impact of those mistakes.

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That can mean anything from central median barriers and roundabouts to traffic cameras and lower speed limits.

When de Blasio released his policy book in June, he made brief mention of his support for Vision Zero. But today is the first time he's explained just what he means.

De Blasio would improve at least 50 "dangerous corridors and intersections a year," using techniques like narrowing streets and widening sidewalks to slow down cars.

He would quadruple to 52 the number of "slow zones," where the speed limit is reduced from 30 to 20 mph.

He would prioritize police enforcement of traffic infractions, a notable gap in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's otherwise progressive transportation policies.

And he would try to get Albany to give New York City control over its own speed cameras, which is a nice idea but probably a futile one.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who's also running for mayor, hasn't specifically endorsed Vision Zero, though she has promised to cut traffic fatalities in half by 2021.

Former comptroller Bill Thompson hasn't said much about traffic deaths.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was at one point the most aggressive bike-lane critic of them all, has said in the course of his bulk delivery of ideas for improving the city that he'd like to see more Barnes Dances.