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Bicycle Safety

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

1:49 PM EST on January 19, 2012

Pedestrians and cyclists under the age of 18 are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in East Harlem and on the Lower East Side than in the wealthier neighborhoods between them. For larger version, click here. Image: Transportation Alternatives

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.”

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