TA Urges DOT to Expand Safe Streets for Seniors

scared_senior2.jpgTA recommends longer crossing times than DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program currently employs.

Older pedestrians are probably the city’s most vulnerable street users, much more likely to die in traffic collisions than younger New Yorkers. It’s a public health concern that extends beyond fatality statistics: Fear of the street keeps seniors cooped up inside, constricting their independence and contributing to higher rates of depression.

With New York’s 65-and-older population projected to nearly double to 1.35 million by 2030, last year DOT launched its Safe Streets for Seniors program to tackle the worst problem areas for the city’s elderly. Targeting 25 zones with high rates of senior pedestrian fatalities, the DOT pilot is the first of its size for a city transportation agency in the U.S. But is it doing enough?

In a report released yesterday, Transportation Alternatives pushed for an expanded program that better reflects where seniors actually walk. The main thrust of "Walk the Walk" [PDF] is that the safety zones should cover areas with big senior populations in addition to areas where fatal crashes have occurred. Its recommendations lay out a strategy to boost not just the safety of older New Yorkers, but their access to common destinations like grocery stores, parks, and houses of worship. 

TA highlighted these key findings in its press release:

  • The fatality rate of senior pedestrians is 40 times greater than that of child pedestrians in Manhattan.
  • Of 10 high-density senior census block groups in the Lower East Side, only one was included in a Safe Streets district.
  • Safe Streets for Seniors pedestrian improvement areas do not
    clearly provide safe connections from high senior density housing to
    the destinations seniors like to visit the most, such as stores with
    fresh produce.

DOT is considering expanding its program beyond the current 25 pilot areas, and may weigh additional criteria when selecting the next round of target zones. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the safety of children and seniors on our streets, which is why we launched the Safe Routes to Schools and Streets for Seniors programs," said DOT’s Seth Solomonow in response to the report. "These initiatives, which increase crossing time at intersections, improve crosswalks and expand pedestrian space, are the largest traffic-calming initiative of their kind anywhere in the nation.”

  • Rhywun

    A good start might be to begin enforcing the city’s 30 MPH speed limit.

  • J-Uptown

    TA recommends setting crosswalk timings at 2.5 feet/sec instead of 4 feet/sec for a 1/8th miles radius around senior districts and hospitals. Why not just set a standard citywide crossing speed of 2.5 feet/sec? That way all city streets will be safer for seniors and all other peds.

  • And why even a 30mph speed limit?

    With pedestrians outnumbering cars on most city streets, that safety of the pedestrians should take precedence and the speed limit dropped to a much more pedestrian safe 25mph.

  • dporpentine

    Agree with all of the above.

    And will just add this: yesterday, waiting at a light at Eastern Parkway and Washington, I saw an older pedestrian in a crosswalk get slammed into by a car making a fast left-hand turn. Eastern Parkway (for anyone who doesn’t know) is a very wide street–four lanes in the middle, with two feeders at the side. The pedestrian probably started crossing with the light but had it change on him–and when he started crossing probably had the reasonable expectation that if the light changed, no one would simply slam into him in such a wide road, where visibility isn’t a problem at all. But no, the driver hit him hard enough to lift him up and send him flying maybe fifteen feet.

    Slower crosswalk speeds are a necessity. And speed limits need to be lowered for sure. And any violation of that lower speed limit needs to be treated like–I don’t know, a crime.

  • I agree that 25MPH is a reasonable compromise. Maybe that’ll keep cabs down to 40 or 45.

  • It is this simple. Plan for seniors and children, and you plan for everyone.

  • m to the i

    dporpentine,

    Im glad that you mentioned the dangerous crossing at Eastern Parkway and Washington. I have been meaning to write to the DOT about this intersection forever. The north side of Eastern has no crosswalk signal to cross Washington. And, since there is no traffic signal/signs on the local road where the crosswalk is, cars just dont respect the pedestrian right of way. Also, as you mentioned, many cars speed south on Washington to make the light and make left turns onto Eastern really fast. This intersection really needs to be improved.

    M

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