Typically, when Transportation Alternatives speaks out, it is to ask the people of New York City to add their voices to the conversation about a new protected bike lane or a law against speeding. This time we need to talk about the violence endured by Black New Yorkers.
In this moment of national uncertainty, it is more important than ever for our community to begin a conversation about the intersection of racial justice and traffic justice.
The facts are undeniable: People of color are disproportionately harmed by traffic violence. Research has shown that drivers are less likely to yield to pedestrians of color. African Americans are more likely to be killed in traffic.
At the same time, African Americans are significantly more likely to be stopped, ticketed, and searched than white drivers. It seems like every other day we hear news of a Black woman, man or child unjustly killed in yet another police-involved shooting. All too often, these tragedies begin with a traffic stop. Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Terence Crutcher, and too many others have been killed in the aftermath of “traffic safety.”
Transportation Alternatives stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Because we fight to protect New Yorkers in every community, our fight for Vision Zero must also be a fight against institutional, individual and implicit racism.
As we advocate for more equitable streets, we must acknowledge that transportation planning and policies have historically been used as tools of oppression, segregation and displacement in New York City — from the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway to violent police crackdowns on fare-beating and sidewalk bicycling in Black communities. We will fight to correct these historic inequities as we advocate for streets that serve all New Yorkers. Our campaigns will proceed with full acknowledgement of this history and preparedness to overcome it.
At Transportation Alternatives, we have been taking a hard look at how racial justice can guide our vision of a city built for people walking and biking. We have gathered together as a staff, Board of Directors and Advisory Council to articulate a set of principles, which you can read below.
As we move into an uncertain future, we pledge that we will listen and be accountable to communities of color, and that we will always seek to be watchful for the creeping reach of historic injustice in every step we take toward Vision Zero.
Transportation Alternatives’ Principles for Racial Justice in Traffic Justice
We Fight for Unbiased Automated Enforcement: To address the epidemic of traffic violence that disproportionately kills Black people, we will work to expand the use of automated speed safety cameras, red light cameras and failure-to-yield cameras. These cameras only capture a vehicle’s license plate and do not risk ticketing based on race or other discriminating factors. We pledge to help ensure that these cameras do not unfairly target communities of color.
We Oppose Discriminatory Enforcement: We renew our call for the NYPD to focus traffic enforcement resources on the streets that are most hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists, and on the offenses that kill and injure most New Yorkers, and we encourage disavowing historic practices that have targeted and harmed communities of color. We are concerned about melding quality-of-life policing and traffic enforcement, and we ask the NYPD to detach Vision Zero from other types of enforcement. Transportation Alternatives is proud to endorse the Right to Know Act to protect all New Yorkers against unconstitutional searches.
We Fight for Transportation Justice and Equity: Black communities face historic disadvantages from decades of transportation disinvestment. We will fight for investments great enough to correct this systemic inequity. We will take a hard look at what that investment looks like, listening to Black communities about how transportation can benefit a neighborhood’s current residents. Nationally, this conversation began at the Untokening Conference in November, where we joined with leaders across the country to discuss transportation policy and displacement prevention strategies.
We Respect Local Knowledge and Leadership: We will work to increase representation of communities of color on our Board and our Advisory Council, as well as on New York City’s community boards. We will continue to engage with local stakeholders to develop streets that directly benefit current neighborhood residents through the existing Participatory Budgeting process and, as members of the NYC Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, by fighting for the program’s expansion across the City. In our borough activist committees, we pledge to work with our activist leaders of color to facilitate conversations about addressing the systemic racism in transportation planning and in enforcement, and we will examine implicit bias within our own organizing model.
We Fight for Restorative Justice: We will work to expand the country’s first restorative justice program for people convicted of dangerous driving offenses, in Red Hook, Brooklyn; and we will only fight for enforcement measures that deter dangerous driving and seek to repair the harm done. We seek to promote traffic safety and justice in a way that can serve as a model of a constructive criminal justice system, avoiding the problems and inequities that have devastated generations of Black families and communities.