TSTC Names the Most Dangerous Roads for Pedestrians

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A new report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign names five New York City streets among the region’s 10 most dangerous roads for pedestrians, based on the number of fatalities from 2005 to 2007. Making the list were:

  • Third Avenue, Manhattan: 10 fatalities
  • Broadway, Manhattan: 10 fatalities
  • Grand Central Parkway, Queens: 9 fatalities
  • Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island: 9 fatalities
  • Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn: 8 fatalities

TSTC found that two Long Island routes, Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County and Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County, were the most deadly in terms of raw numbers, with 15 and 12 fatalities, respectively. Roads in New Jersey’s Atlantic, Burlington, Middlesex and Ocean Counties rounded out the list.

"The most dangerous roads are either extremely busy urban roads, such as 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, that handle many pedestrians and cars," said TSTC analyst Michelle Ernst, in the media release accompanying the report, "or, as with the case of Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County, they are major suburban roadways dotted with retail destinations but designed exclusively for fast-moving car traffic."

During the three years covered by the study, there were 147 pedestrian deaths in Brooklyn, 128 in Manhattan, 95 in Queens, 53 in the Bronx, and 26 in Staten Island. Narrowly missing the regional top 10 list were First and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Each saw seven fatalities.

TSTC acknowledged city DOT efforts to improve pedestrian conditions, but gave lower marks to New York State.

"It’s upsetting that roads on Long Island have more pedestrian fatalities than roads in dense urban areas, where people tend to walk much more," said Ryan Lynch, Senior Planner and Long Island Coordinator for the Campaign.  "It’s clear that the New York State Department of Transportation isn’t providing safe walking routes for Long Islanders. This needs to change."

Borough and county fact sheets are available on the TSTC web site, and Mobilizing the Region has further analysis.

  • Phil

    Pedestrian fatalities on the Grand Central? What?

  • Kate Slevin

    Phil, the database we used didn’t break out the service road from the Parkway itself. But based on the latitude and longitude, these fatalities all occurred on the service road.

  • Phil, it looks like the pedestrians were killed while trying to cross the Grand Central service road or one of its on or offramps.

    I can understand why they chose to focus on roads, but it does complicate the analysis, because all other things being equal, a long road will have more deaths. I would be interested in seeing the data analyzed from a route-mile perspective, the “ten deadliest miles of road.” For example, it looks like five of the deaths on Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard were concentrated in Ozone Park, where there are more pedestrians. Similarly, there are four deaths on 125th Street between Park Avenue and the Triboro Bridge. On Hempstead Turnpike/Fulton Avenue, four deaths occurred in Hempstead, two in West Hempstead and two in East Meadow.

    Given all the carnage in Manhattan and Queens, I’m surprised that Hudson County seem so safe.

    Also, where’s Westchester?

  • Michelle Ernst

    Cap’n Transit,

    Westchester suffered a high number of pedestrian fatalities – 23, but the deaths were distributed throughout the county so that none of Westchester’s roads ranked as “most dangerous.”

    Good comment about running the analysis by route-mile…we’ve been playing around with the data to try to do just that.

  • Mike Benediktsson

    Capn’ Transit –

    You’re right, fatalities by route mile would be good. On the other hand, Michelle and I figured it would distort the analysis in the opposite direction, making short roads appear more dangerous than they are.

    In other words, a three-block long street with one or two fatalities would probably top the list.

    There’s a compromise here somewhere but it’s likely to be a bit more complicated (for example, breaking it down by classes of road or excluding roads shorter than a certain distance).

    For what it’s worth, in suburban Long Island and New Jersey, fatalities do appear to be clustered along identifiable roads. Yes they’re in areas with lots of pedestrians, but the rest of the story is the speed that cars pick up between lights and, in many cases, inadequate pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.

    So, I guess this is pretty obvious, but it seems like the combination of pedestrians, fast car traffic and inadequate pedestrian infrastructure produce suburban danger spots.

    Definitely good points though.

  • CrashStat.org

    The same sort of issues occur with interpreting the data on CrashStat.org (we just released a new version yesterday, by the way). Although certain intersections may seem more dangerous than others in terms of raw numbers of fatalities and severe injuries, what one really needs is a denominator — pedestrian and motor vehicle volume at each intersection. Unfortunately such information is not available.

  • On the other hand, Michelle and I figured it would distort the analysis in the opposite direction, making short roads appear more dangerous than they are.

    I think that would only happen if you compare averages for the streets. If you talk about specific miles instead, such as “the easternmost mile of 125th Street,” then it doesn’t say anything about the rest of the road.

    For what it’s worth, in suburban Long Island and New Jersey, fatalities do appear to be clustered along identifiable roads. Yes they’re in areas with lots of pedestrians, but the rest of the story is the speed that cars pick up between lights and, in many cases, inadequate pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.

    That definitely makes a lot of sense. Essentially, it’s the State DOT and local governments wanting to push cars through at any cost, even in places that attract a lot of pedestrians.

  • The same sort of issues occur with interpreting the data on CrashStat.org (we just released a new version yesterday, by the way). Although certain intersections may seem more dangerous than others in terms of raw numbers of fatalities and severe injuries, what one really needs is a denominator — pedestrian and motor vehicle volume at each intersection. Unfortunately such information is not available.

    Where’s the new version? It still says “Crashstat 2.0.” Zooming in on an intersection or zip code using the Google Maps search functionality would definitely be helpful.

    It seems like most of the vehicle and pedestrian volume data should probably be computerized now. What’s preventing the DOT from simply releasing the raw data on the web? Is there any justification for it other than bureaucratic secrecy?

  • Cap’n:

    2.0’s out of beta now — the performance has been improved, along with some other usability improvements and bug fixes.

    The feature you want is coming in version 2.1, to be released later this year.

  • Miguel Marcos

    There’s a big age factor here, at least from the graphic displayed.

  • 40×14

    I think it’s pretty clear from the pdfs that while Broadway and 3rd avenue may be the “most dangerous roads” in Manhattan, the area near the Manhattan Bridge looks to be the most dangerous area.

    It’s a question of framing and being able to put a label on the report. Since no label exists for the (chinatown) area, the report states that Broadway and Third avenue are the most dangerous roads, when in fact other areas have much higher density of fatalities.

    http://www.tstc.org/reports/danger08/manhattan.pdf

    The report is vehicle centric in that it skews focus from most dangerous areas (for pedestrians) to favor the longest continuous roadways from a drivers point of view.

  • I just realized that two of the Grand Central fatalities happened at the Utopia Parkway exit, which is just south of Saint John’s University (a 51-year old male in 2005 and a 28-year-old male in 2007). I’m teaching at St. John’s this semester, and I go through there each way, often on foot. I totally understand how those guys got killed: impatient drivers are constantly turning across pedestrians to get on and off the Grand Central. There’s a painted attempt at traffic calming, but it’s pretty worn off. I hope they can improve those intersections at least.

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