Health Department: Pedestrian Fatality Rate Highest on Streets in Low-Income Neighborhoods

The analysis also shows that NYC streets are especially dangerous for seniors on foot.

Chart: NYC Department of Health
Chart: NYC Department of Health

Pedestrian fatalities in NYC are disproportionately concentrated on streets in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to a new Department of Health analysis of pedestrian fatality data from 2012 to 2014 [PDF].

The Health Department calculated the rate of pedestrian deaths per mile of street according to the share of residents living below the federal poverty line. Per mile, nearly three times as many pedestrian deaths happened in zip codes with more than 30 percent of residents living in poverty as in neighborhoods where fewer than 10 percent of residents are in poverty. In the two neighborhood tiers between those extremes — which together account for about two-thirds of the city’s population — the per-mile rate splits the difference.

Per capita, differences are still apparent but not quite as stark. The pedestrian fatality rate for residents of low-poverty zip codes is about half as high as in the other three neighborhood tiers, without much variation between those three.

The report does not explain possible causes for these disparities, nor does it map the areas with high or low rates of pedestrian deaths. But the results indicate that the city has work to do to eliminate the unequal burden of pedestrian fatalities. A 2012 report from Transportation Alternatives posited that elevated child pedestrian deaths in low-income Manhattan neighborhoods might be due to dangerous street design near public housing.


The Health Department also points out the increased risk for older pedestrians on NYC streets. New Yorkers over 65 accounted for 37 percent of all pedestrian fatalities during the study period but account for just 13 percent of the city’s population.

You can see how the dangers of traffic limit the freedom of both elderly New Yorkers and children. Residents younger than 18 and older than 64 both suffer significantly higher pedestrian fatality rates within 10 blocks of their homes than the population at large.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Signal timing.

    Let’s say you are outbound on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Through Crown Heights you end up stopping and waiting every few blocks.

    But once you make that turn into Ocean Hill, Brownsville, East New York, you can make it almost to the Jackie Robinson without stopping. Zoom.

  • Komanoff

    You wrote:

    Per capita, differences are still apparent but not quite as stark. The pedestrian fatality rate for residents of low-poverty zip codes is about half as high as in the other three neighborhood tiers, without much variation between those three.

    Just to be sure: you’re saying the study found that residents of nghbhds where fewer than 10% of HH’s are poverty had half the per capita rate of pedestrian deaths as residents of nghbhds where 10% or more of HH’s are poverty; and that there was no significant variation in ped death rates above that 10% mark?


  • that’s right. it’s on page 5 of the DOH brief.

  • Reader

    This is clear evidence that allowing random community board members with no transportation or public health experience to decide the fate of life-saving street transformation projects is immoral. It also means that neighborhoods where people have the time and resources to mount successful advocacy campaigns to counter biased community boards have a leg up on neighborhoods that don’t, which is immoral in a different sense.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks Ben.

    I know I should look at the DOH brief. But based on David’s story and your reply to my question, can you say that the Sblog story headline is accurate? The hed assigns the highest per-capita ped fatality rate to the poorest nghbhds, but apparently DOH found that once we segregate (ha) the least-poor nghbhds, the fatality rates are pretty uniform — which to me is a different conclusion than what the headline implies.

  • The hedline reflects DOH’s per-street-mile metric.

  • Tyson White

    This report can be a handy tool for victim blaming.


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