Leaving Cars Behind, Seniors Find Streets Inhospitable

1431951650_b0764494d8.jpgA recent poll conducted by AARP finds that Americans over the age of 50 are cutting down on car trips due to rising gas prices, but are finding public infrastructure, or lack thereof, to be an obstacle.

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walking
as a way to avoid high gas prices. But as those people set out to walk,
almost 40% of the 50+ population say they do not have adequate
sidewalks in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 44% say they do not
have nearby public transportation that is accessible. Almost half (47%)
of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely – 4 in
10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.

Still, 40 percent of poll respondents say they have walked, biked, or taken public transit more frequently since gasoline prices began trending upward. More than half, 54 percent, say they would use alternate modes of transportation if conditions were improved.

As older New Yorkers can attest, impediments to car-free mobility are not exclusive to suburbs and exurbs. Washington, DC, for example, ranks ninth — better than Arizona but worse than Florida — in pedestrian fatalities among those over age 65, according to AARP. (New York state is third worst, behind Hawaii and Alaska.)

With some 35 million members, AARP is a formidable lobby. As a member of the National Complete Streets Coalition and backer of legislation that would steer federal funds toward making roadways accessible to all users, it promises to be a player in next year’s big transportation appropriations bill.

Photo: Tuan Phan/Flickr

  • A friend of mine who happened to live in Phoenix for a horrible year of his life told me that the news would often report about senior citizens killed in traffic accidents were often investigated for clues of intent to commit suicide by traffic accident. Similarly young people killed were investigated for signs of drugs or alcohol. The idea was that only someone suicidal, drunk or high would cross certain streets/highways at night.

  • JP

    I hate to sound like a big ol’ jerk, but it is because of the actions and priorities of this generation that we’re in this auto-dependent situation.

    This is the generation that abandoned streetcars and rails and let the NYC Subway rot.

  • JP, my 82-year-old mother is not part of the generation that abandoned streetcars. I once asked her if she remembered the trolley that ran through our hometown (the tracks disappeared when I was 5). She didn’t remember it — it was the previous generation that abandoned streetcars.

    The good news is that there is now a huge new constituency for livable streets — and they go out and vote.

  • Shemp

    Thanks for reporting this – great to learn about.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Seniors living in the suburbs and getting too old to drive safely is going to be a big problem in this country.

  • Ian Turner

    This has the power to drive a lot of change, the AARP being the most powerful lobby in America.

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