Good afternoon, my name is Brooke DuBose and I am a staff planner at Transportation Alternatives, New York City's advocates for safer walking and bicycling.
Each year in New York City over 12,000 people are struck by motor vehicles and injured, often fatally. That breaks down to roughly 33 pedestrians and cyclists hit every day here. This staggering figure alone should make remedying this problem the most serious public health crusade of our time. With almost no exception these debilitating injuries and deaths are preventable through basic changes to the street. We not only know how to build and retrofit streets to make them safer, but we know which streets need to be changed first and which populations are the most vulnerable.
Each year the same handful of streets in each borough claim the majority of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities. In Manhattan, for example, it is almost always some variety of the 15 wide cross-town streets (14th, 23rd, 34th, etc.) intersecting the avenues. In Brooklyn, Eastern and Ocean Parkways are always on the list of worst corridors for crashes. Fordam Road and Gun Hill Road always make the list in the Bronx, for Queens it is Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, and Hylan Boulevard is that most dangerous street on Staten Island. There, last Monday (October 29, 2007), 42-year-old Maria Alvarenga was struck and killed in a hit-and-run crash by a speeding driver.
Ten years ago, Queens Boulevard was known across the country as the “Boulevard of Death,” and the primary reason Queens Boulevard has lost its place as the worst road for pedestrian injuries and fatalities for the entire city is because these basic engineering improvements are finally being implemented.
It is essential to immediately work on those streets that currently claim so many lives. And it is important that DOT work with the community boards and local elected officials and citizens on the plans for these streets. Then the number of injuries and fatalities will immediately decrease.
Similarly, we know that the same demographic groups of New Yorkers are involved in the majority of pedestrian crashes each year. It is the very young and the very old who need the most protected space and time to cross the street. Between 1995 and 2005, children ages 1-14 years made up 20% of the city's population and comprised 29% of all pedestrian crash hospitalizations, and seniors, age 65 and over, made up 12% of the population and 18% of all pedestrian hospitalizations. So, together, children and seniors make up one third of New York's population but account for one-half of all serious pedestrian casualties. This is why initiatives like the City's Safe Routes to School traffic safety program and Transportation Alternatives' Safe Routes for Seniors campaign are so important and need considerable funding. Transportation Alternatives believes that by making streets safe for the most vulnerable users, they will be safer for everyone.
We know that the Department of Transportation has programs like Safe Routes to Schools, Safe Routes to Transit, Bicycle Network Development and Traffic Calming that work on the citywide, neighborhood and street level to make safety improvements. We do not know how the Transportation and Police Departments and, increasingly, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene work together to review crash data quickly, reconcile high crash locations with existing projects and work interventions for these locations into their projects, nor do we know the agencies' policies for prioritizing locations that do not fall within existing projects.
Do we need to have more urgent and exhaustive investigations into crashes? Definitely. Does City Hall need to treat the current rate at which cyclists and pedestrians are struck and killed in New York City as an epidemic? Absolutely. Do agencies need to work with communities from day one to fix dangerous streets? Yes. Does it make sense to legislate the actions of several City agencies without their input? No.
More than ever, City Hall is making non-polluting, environmentally-friendly and healthy transportation the priority in New York City, so as agencies work hard to improve and promote walking, bicycling and transit, now is the opportunity for the Council to bring best practices from other world cities to New York, work with agencies to adapt to our streets and institutionalize them, so they are lasting programs that will work over many years to transform our streets and improve our city.