Report Highlights Connection Between Perceptions Of Traffic Safety, Public Safety And Physical Activity

Study Examines Walking And Bicycling in Bedford-Stuyvesant
Michael Murphy
(646) 873-6008
April 2, 2012

Today, Transportation Alternatives released “Transportation, Safety and Health: A Look at How Perceptions of Safety, Crime and Violence Impact Active Transportation in Bedford-Stuyvesant.” The report was written by Anca Giurgiulescu, Transportation Alternatives’ 2011 Dr. Carl Henry Nacht Health Fellow, and data was collected in concert with community partners in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“This close look at people’s travel habits in Bed-Stuy offers insights and lessons for communities around the city,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Regular walking helps to keep you healthy, and while people we surveyed in Bed-Stuy walk fairly often, they said that they would walk more, or bike, if they felt safer. The demand for better infrastructure in the form of new streetlights, safer bike lanes and other street design improvements needs to be addressed by the City.”

“This study, a first of its kind in New York City, shows that not all neighborhoods are created equally when it comes to transportation access and safe streets,” added Anca Giurgiulescu. “The report highlights the myriad factors that can encourage -- or prevent -- neighborhood residents from using public space to its fullest. Given the enormous health benefits of walking, bicycling and transit, this report should be a clarion call for public officials to make our streets as inviting and safe as possible.”

Among study participants, the biggest barrier to walking for Bedford-Stuyvesant residents was the lack of maintenance of public spaces. The top impediments to bicycling in the neighborhood were the lack of bike lanes and the need for safer bike lanes protected from motor vehicle traffic. When respondents do spend time outside, it is typically with other people. Asked to pick among twelve choices for how safety concerns affect their patterns of walking, biking and transit riding, 60 percent of respondents said that they walk with friends, 45 percent said they stay in areas with people around them and 40 percent stay in areas that they feel are safe. Respondents indicated that their safety in the neighborhood was a significant factor in deterring them from walking or biking more.

To make walking and bicycling more accessible and safer, Bedford-Stuyvesant residents recommended improved lighting, maintaining the cleanliness of residential and commercial streets, installing more bike lanes and reducing motor vehicle speeds.

Having found that perceptions of safety on neighborhood streets strongly impact whether residents view the street as a place that supports healthy physical activity, “Transportation, Safety and Health” highlights the need for crime prevention initiatives and the implementation of active street design improvements. The study’s recommendations for City agencies include:

- Consider how agency initiatives and programs can relate to crime and violence prevention.
- Collaborate with community-based partners to develop a before/after study to examine how strategic enforcement and street design that support safer walking and biking can influence crime and violence reduction.
- Continue to support implementation of Play Streets; make the program more sustainable and accessible.
- Prioritize enforcement of unsafe and unhealthy street conditions—e.g. noise, litter, disrespectful behavior, speeding and red light running—educate officers about the public safety benefits of active transportation.

The Dr. Carl Henry Nacht Health Fellowship was founded by Mary Beth Kelly in honor of her husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht. Henry used New York City’s public spaces to stay healthy: walking its neighborhoods, running its streets and bicycling to his office, the hospital and to homebound patients. The Fellowship honors Henry’s dedication to improving people’s lives by promoting the city as a place for New Yorkers to engage in healthy activity. The Transportation, Safety and Health Assessment began as the first Nacht Fellow project. In 2012, Transportation Alternatives’ Dr. Carl Henry Nacht Fellow, Stephanie Kneeshaw-Price, is examining the relationship between street safety, crime and physical activity in different Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The report is located online:

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