When Eric Adams (almost certainly) takes over City Hall in 12 weeks, one of the many disasters he will face is traffic deaths. Like murders, road carnage has soared since COVID. Adams can’t ignore reckless drivers to focus on shooters. The two measures of urban disorder rise and fall in tandem.
This past summer was the deadliest for walkers, cyclists and car drivers and passengers since the start of the de Blasio era, Transportation Alternatives found in a new study: 200 people have died on the streets this year. That’s the most traffic deaths in nine months since Mayor de Blasio took office. And it’s an increase on top of an increase: Just like murders, traffic deaths rose last year, up more than 10 percent, to 243. This, even though people were under orders to stay home for much of 2020.
It isn’t that de Blasio’s Vision Zero program — bike lanes and speed cameras and the like — wasn’t working. Deaths fell by 26 percent between 2013 and 2019, to 220, continuing big declines from the Bloomberg era.
No, it’s that all kinds of other chaos have exploded recently. When you can carry an illegal gun with impunity, you can also speed with impunity, drive while high on drugs with impunity, drive the wrong way down one-way street with impunity.
For four decades, traffic deaths and murders have risen and fallen together, according to my analysis of the data. The statistical correlation is as close as “one to one” as you get. Crash and murder deaths rose steadily from 1980, to reach their peak — 701 traffic deaths, 2245 murders — in 1990. Then, they both fell steadily, to lows reached between 2017 and 2019: an average of 216 traffic deaths and 302 murders for each of those three years.
Consider some striking examples: The man who killed 31-year-old Carina Lopez in The Bronx last month, speeding into her at 90 miles per hour, was allegedly high out of his mind on cocaine. The man who killed baby Apolline Mong-Guillemin on a sidewalk in Brooklyn last month was speeding the wrong way down a one-way street, having racked up nearly 200 tickets and arrests.
Last week, someone was riding a motorized “e-bike” on the Belt Parkway, a major highway. You aren’t supposed to do that, and had the driver who hit and killed him instead stopped, he likely wouldn’t have faced any charges. But the driver didn’t stop. He and his four passengers fled their car in the middle of the road.
An attentive, lawful driver maybe could have avoided hitting and killing the illegal e-bicyclist. But it seems like this carload of people in the middle of the night had something to hide. Illegal chaos collided with illegal chaos.
This weekend, the police prevented some kind of tragedy. They stopped a speeding driver and found him illegally armed with a gun. Whether they stopped a teen from being shot, or a baby from being run over, doesn’t matter.
Yet these kinds of police stops, of drivers committing “moving violations” such as speeding and going the wrong way, have fallen by half since 2019.
It doesn’t help that food-delivery apps such as Grubhub and DoorDash have flooded the streets with inexperienced “independent contractor” delivery riders on motorized “e-bikes” that go close to 20 miles per hour. You can’t deliver a millennial bro his grilled-cheese sandwich in his “luxury” apartment from a junk-food restaurant three miles away for your $1 tip unless you go really fast.
So the motorized bike isn’t a choice — it’s part of the predatory business model. The delivery bikers are in grave danger. Ten of them have died this year, up from seven for all of last year. Is the cheap food worth it?
Civilians aren’t safe from these tech companies, either. Last year, a Revel scooter rider killed 82-year-old pedestrian Helga Schnitker at Columbus Circle.
But the apps disavow any responsibility from the tragic mess they helped create. (And this year, someone riding his own two-wheeled moped killed 65-year-old actress Lisa Banes near Lincoln Center).
To solve the problem, Adams will have to do the same thing that worked with cutting the murder rate over four decades: restoring good policing to the streets (and refusing to let millennial “tech” take over the streets). Good policing and app regulation save lives — both “regular” crime victims and crash victims.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor of City Journal.
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