Step by step, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign to promote pedestrian safety is going into effect across the city’s five boroughs. In February the mayor signed a measure to reduce the citywide speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. Now the city’s Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has released the most detailed plans yet to address the issue, calling for targeted approaches to redesign the city’s most dangerous streets—high-traffic corridors and intersections.
“We know arterial streets are the most dangerous in New York City,” Caroline Samponaro, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives, a street safety advocacy group, told AN. “They make up about 15 percent of city streets. What they did in the reports is look at the most dangerous of the dangerous and identified 154 corridors total across five boroughs.” For instance, 127 miles of priority corridors in Queens comprise just six percent of the borough’s total roads but make up for 47 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Similar figures were cited for each borough.
These findings are backed up by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s 2015 “Most Dangerous Roads for Walking” report, which identified the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, and Queens’ Woodhaven and Queens boulevards as safety trouble spots. All four are targets of Vision Zero safety plans.
Collectively, the plans call for implementing at least 50 street redesign projects along the identified corridors. Additional measures include adding speed cameras, increasing pedestrian crossing times, and targeting police enforcement, especially in evening and overnight hours when collisions tend to spike. Each borough plan further delineates additional changes tailored to conditions on the ground in each borough such as better lighting at underpasses and additional signage.
The safety plans were generated by crunching crash data and scrutinizing the
geography of pedestrian collisions, taking into account dozens of community meetings and thousands of public comments. The analysis indicates where concerted street redesign efforts will have the greatest effect.
NYCDOT is also calling for special emphasis on senior safety. In Manhattan, seniors make up 14 percent of the population but account for 41 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Redesigned streets and education campaigns are expected to curtail those numbers.
While pedestrian deaths have decreased substantially across New York City—some 50 percent over 30 years—Staten Island is the statistical outlier, with an 11 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities over the same period. Pedestrians there make up 48 percent of all traffic fatalities. The NYCDOT’s target area is focused around the northeastern corner of the island at the ferry landing, where major new developments are underway, including a shopping mall by SHoP Architects and the New York Wheel Ferris wheel.
Samponaro praised the city’s safety plans, yet urged the NYCDOT to avoid a patchwork approach to redesigning streets. “We need to look at the most dangerous streets in their entirety,” she said. “Not just intersection by intersection.” She hopes the city continues to utilize “early action treatments” to enact quick fixes like painting pedestrian plazas and neckdowns using the NYCDOT’s operating budget.
The first four streets to be redesigned are Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue, Queens Boulevard, and the Grand Concourse, which make up 20 miles of the overall 443 miles of priority corridors. De Blasio called for these “Vision Zero Great Streets” to be finished within the next four years using $250 million from the city budget.