11/19/09

City's Pedestrian Death Rate 3 Times National Average

According to "Dangerous by Design", 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 of 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 while walking on or crossing a city street in the past 15 years.  In this decade alone, more than 43,000 pedestrians, including 3,906 children under the age of 16, have been killed, roughly equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing 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, law enforcement typically labels it an “accident” and the driver -- if sober -- rarely faces criminal prosecution.  But, the report finds, an overwhelming proportion of pedestrian deaths happen on roads that are designed to be dangerous to pedestrians:  roads engineered solely for speeding cars, not people walking or riding bicycles.

But 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 the epidemic of obesity and heart disease. And walking and biking, because they are clean transportation, are also 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.

The message still hasn't reach southwest Brooklyn. At a recent Town Hall Meeting in Dyker Heights hosted by State Senator Marty Golden, local residents had mixed reactions to modest efforts by the city's Department of Transportation to calm traffic and make room on the roads for bicycles.

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