In Low-Income Neighborhoods, Children Face Extra Risk From Traffic

Kids are more likely to be injured while walking or biking in East Harlem and the Lower East Side than the wealthier areas between them. ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ChildCrashMapLarge.jpg##Click to enlarge.## Image: T.A.

Children growing up in Manhattan’s low-income communities are at significantly higher risk of being seriously injured or killed in traffic than their neighbors in wealthier districts, a new study from Transportation Alternatives finds [PDF]. Intersections near public housing appear to be particularly dangerous for children trying to cross the street.

In East Harlem and on the Lower East Side, the number of children younger than 18 who are killed or seriously injured while walking or riding their bikes is significantly higher than on the Upper East Side or in Gramercy and East Midtown, even though there are more total crashes with pedestrians in those wealthier neighborhoods.

The most dangerous intersection for kids on the East Side is Lexington and 125th, where 34 children were injured and one killed between 1995 and 2009.

The disparity can’t be explained by differences in population. In fact, the Upper East Side has the greatest share of residents under the age of 18 of the four areas studied. Rather, children are more at risk of getting hit by a car than adults in the low-income neighborhoods, while they are at lower risk in the high-income areas.

Transportation Alternatives hasn’t pinned down a cause, but they theorize that the design of public housing projects could be the culprit. Nine of the ten most dangerous East Side intersections for children were near public housing. The creation of large superblocks at many public housing developments could be encouraging children to cross mid-block, for example.

Twelve-year-old Dashane Santana, a resident of the East Village’s Jacob Riis Houses, was hit and killed last Friday while crossing Delancey at Clinton Street, across from NYCHA’s Seward Park Extension at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Leaders from East Harlem and the Lower East Side have decried the unsafe conditions their children face. “My district contains the greatest concentration of public housing in the city and is located in an area of Manhattan where traffic can be quite heavy. That means the children of my district are at risk,” said City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We need immediate action to address dangerous driving habits and must improve traffic patterns in high risk areas. Bike lanes in East Harlem are certainly one part of the solution, but more can be done.”

“This map shows us an injustice, pure and simple,” said Damaris Reyes, the executive director of the neighborhood organization Good Old Lower East Side. “Our kids living in public housing on the Lower East Side, including my own children, deserve safe streets just as much as any other child in the city. The NYPD needs to get its priorities straight and crack down on dangerous driving.”

  • Guest

    There are many logical leaps of faith here…

    An alternate hypothesis might be that children in housing projects aren’t adequately supervised, and are therfore more likely to run into traffic.  (And this could come in conservative flavors – poor parenting – or liberal – inadequate childcare services for working parents…)

    You would still argue that street design shouldn’t kill kids if they’re parents can’t keep an eye on them all the time… but you would be looking at something different than trying to identify specific, location-based design defects in that case.

  • Anonymous

    While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “poor supervision” like @40daebbed12b53745f7f9f21456e6154:disqus , I think that it could just be that poor kids spend more time on the street than rich kids. In fact, I’d say that’s true for adults as well. It’s a stereotype, but there’s some truth to it: while the rich are ensconced in their big apartments or are being driven around in their limo, the poor are hanging out on the street (and having a better time, if you ask me!). I often see kids in Harlem playing on the streets or riding their bikes. I’ve been to the UES a few times, and have hardly seen any kids there. If it weren’t for the stats you refer to that indicate that there are more kids in the UES, I would have thought that there were none!

  • Danny G

    One could argue that the superblocks are not big enough and that the entirety of East Harlem should be closed to vehicular traffic.

  • I agree with qrt145.  In my rapidly changing older suburban community, the kids that appear to come from lower income families are the only ones I see walking past my house from the middle school down the road.  I often see them playing like I did when I was a kid (It’s great to see them play football and stickball in the streets!!).  All the rich kids get picked up in SUVs and are driven away and kept inside.

  • I know the stereotype is that the rich stay in their apartments and the poor go on the street, but I’d argue the contrary. In the projects of Harlem and the LES, the layout gives people no reason to go on the street – it really compels them to stay in. On the UES, the many neighborhood amenities are across the street, on the nearby avenue, on the next block, or a few buildings away, and the streets are walkable enough that people use them, a lot.

  • Who remembers the Charles Blow tweets from last year? http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/05/31/todays-headlines-1128/

    The guy’s reason for having a car was so that his kids could go to hockey practice, or dressage practice, or quoits, or some other sport that was completely inaccessible without an automobile. BicyclesOnly made the point that there were plenty of sporting activities that were open to kids without cars, like handball or bicycling.

    Clearly, picking up the darlings after school and chauffeuring them to dressage practice is one way to keep them off the streets.

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