Car accidents cost New York City’s economy approximately $4 Billion dollars each year, according to a recent report from Transportation Alternatives. In addition to the staggering financial toll, these accidents are responsible for many injuries and fatalities suffered by New York pedestrians each year.
In response to these issues, the city has begun several initiatives in an effort to reduce traffic-related accidents in New York City. One of these initiatives is the “Vision Zero Plan”, which was launched early in 2014 and aims to eliminate NYC traffic fatalities by 2024. While Vision Zero has had notable success in reducing car accidents and traffic-related fatalities in its first year, many argue that more needs to be done in order to improve the safety of New York’s most dangerous streets.
Dangerous Streets of New York
Decades ago, many of New York City’s major streets were redesigned with the intent of accommodating the increasing amount of traffic that the city was seeing. The idea at the time was to optimize these roads for the flow of traffic throughout the city. While the redesign was successful in its effort to improve traffic flow, little attention was paid to pedestrian needs. As a result, these “arterial streets” have become hazardous for pedestrians throughout New York City and have caused many injuries and fatalities over the years.
What Are Arterial Streets?
In New York, an arterial street refers a to a large street designed for the efficient movement of vehicles. These streets typically consist of multiple lanes which are heavily trafficked with cars and trucks. A few examples of arterial streets throughout the city include:
- Sixth Avenue (Manhattan)
- Queens Boulevard (Queens)
- Atlantic Avenue (Brooklyn / Queens)
- The Grand Concourse (The Bronx)
- Hylan Boulevard (Staten Island)
The Consequences of Dangerous Streets
Just about every street in the world poses a certain level of danger to pedestrians, however some streets are much more dangerous than others. This is no more evident than in New York City, where arterial streets consist of only 15% of all roads, yet are responsible for nearly 60% of traffic-related pedestrian fatalities. According to the report, approximately 1,500 people were killed on New York City’s arterial streets over the past decade.
Complete Streets: The Solution to Pedestrian Safety in NYC
The dangers of arterial streets are evident in the statistics. The questions then arises as to how to reduce those dangers. In their recent report, Transportation Alternatives suggests the concept of reconstructing certain streets to be “Complete Streets,” which would accommodate the needs of all pedestrians and motorists including those walking, biking, driving or taking public transportation. For example, a complete street would include designated bike lanes, driving lanes and bus lanes, as well as a refuge island for pedestrians in the middle of large streets with multi-directional traffic.
Benefits of Redesigning New York City Streets
Redesigning streets would not only help to improve safety, but could also have a positive economic impact for the city. After implementing complete street redesigns on 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, those streets have seen a reduction in crashes as well as increased biking and bus ridership. In addition to reducing accidents and improving quality of life for pedestrians, complete streets could also have a positive economic impact. According to Transportation Alternatives, the annual sales for businesses on reconstructed streets have increased as much as 120 percent within two years of construction. Additionally, a reduction in traffic accidents would decrease the expensive costs that the city is currently experiencing.
A Safer City For Pedestrians
The reconstruction of New York’s most dangerous streets will be a long and expensive process, however the long term benefits are well worth the effort. While there is still much to be done in terms of improving the safety for New York pedestrians, we are glad to see that these issues are receiving attention and that a changes are being made.