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New York’s Walkable Streets Not Safe Enough For Everyone Who Walks

2:24 PM EDT on May 24, 2011

A map of New York-area pedestrian fatalities. New York's streets are very safe for those on foot considering the number of pedestrians, but the absolute number of pedestrian traffic deaths is very high. Image: Transportation For America.

Compared to other American regions, the New York metro area is, by and large, a safe place to walk. Only two large metros, Boston and Cleveland, perform better on Transportation for America's pedestrian danger index, as described in the new report, "Dangerous By Design," which Tanya covered earlier today on Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

The index measures how likely someone is to be killed while walking, given the total number of pedestrian fatalities and the amount people walk. New York and its suburbs are sufficiently compact to make walking a common activity, and the region has enough pedestrian infrastructure to keep people relatively safe as they do it.

But New York isn't doing so well when it comes to the total number of people killed while walking. With an average of 1.9 pedestrians per 100,000 residents killed in crashes each year, the region ranks 13th worst in the nation, with only slightly fewer pedestrian fatalities per capita than Houston. Between 2000 and 2009, 3,485 pedestrians in the New York area pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes.

So while New York's transit-oriented transportation system makes the area much safer than the typical American region, the "Dangerous By Design" numbers should still be a wake-up call: With so many pedestrians on the street, New York and its suburbs need to be that much safer for people on foot.

One of Transportation for America's recommendations is particularly timely for the New York region: passage of complete streets policies. A proposed complete streets law for New York, which would have required projects with state and federal funding to be designed with all users in mind, passed the State Senate last year but died in the Assembly. An updated version of the bill is in front of the legislature right now, but needs a push in both houses if it is to become law.

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