11/19/09

City's Pedestrian Death Rate 3 Times National Average

According to a report published by the advocacy organization Transportation for America,  pedestrians make up a very high percentage of all traffic deaths in New York City. The New York metropolitan area, with an average 316 pedestrian deaths a year in 2007 and 2008, has the highest absolute number of pedestrian deaths of any metropolitan area in the U.S.

The percentage of pedestrians killed by cars in New York City is nearly three times the national average.

Nationally, more than 76,000 people have been killed in the past 15 years while crossing or walking on a city street.  In this decade alone, more than 43,000, including 3,906 children under 16, have been killed, roughly the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down every month. Although children, the elderly and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in these figures, pedestrians of all ages and walks of life have been mowed down.

When a driver kills a pedestrian, it is typically labeled an “accident” and the driver -- if sober -- is rarely prosecuted.  But, the report finds, an overwhelming proportion of pedestrian deaths happen on roads designed to be dangerous to pedestrians:  roads that have been engineered solely for speeding cars, not people walking or riding bicycles.

As dangerous as it is to walk, it is just as deadly not to walk:  walking and bicycling –  called “active transportation” – are critical to reducing morbidity due to obesity and heart disease. And walking and biking, because they are clean transportation, are essential to reducing the negative impacts of traffic congestion, oil dependency and climate change.

Communities have now begun to retrofit poorly designed roads, adding sidewalks and bicycle lanes, reducing crossing distances and installing trees and crosswalks to make walking and biking safer. The safer streets that result have saved lives and promoted better health by encouraging fitness. The damage is beginning to be undone.

The current revision of the nation’s transportation policy is a once-in-a-generation chance to create safer streets, keep neighborhoods livable, promote physical fitness, and back off foreign oil.

Download a PDF of the full report here.

At a recent Town Hall Meeting in Dyker Heights hosted by State Senator Marty Golden, local residents had mixed reactions to efforts by the city's Department of Transportation to calm traffic and make room for bikes.

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"Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein