Not So Safe To Cross

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Rain or snow or freezing fog, a New York City bicycle messenger cuts through the slush along 7th Avenue in Manhattan. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

A new study on pedestrian and cyclist injuries in New York City reports that the majority of pedestrians struck are in a crosswalk at the time of collision. Matt FlegenheimerNew York Times reporter, discusses the study's findings, and Charles Komanoff, transport economist and director of the Carbon Tax Center, joins the conversation.



Matt Flegenheimer and Charles Komanoff

Comments [49]

Tim Dwyer from Manhattan, NY

It is important to note that the injured pedestrians self-reported the circumstances of their accidents. Of course they are going to claim that they were crossing with the light - it's easier to sue that way. While there are, no doubt, many bad drivers in our fair city, pedestrian behavior is out of control. I drive through the city every day, and am constantly breaking for pedestrians crossing mid-block, or against the light. Often at dusk or in bad weather it is very difficult to see them.

It's easy to beat up on the drivers, but that is only half the picture.

Apr. 08 2013 12:38 PM
Bruce from NYC

Oh, and as a life-long NYer, the jaywalking thing has gotten out of hand. People don't jaywalk because it might be safer (Native New Yorker Rule: no traffic and you don't have the light? Cross. Have the light and trust a driver? Yeah, not going to happen.), they jaywalk now because they are: 1. Too stupid to notice the light has changed; 2. Too busy on their phones to pay attention; 3. So arrogant that they don't think that anyone would hit them; 4. When they were dreaming of NY and how they would conquer the City and we would all be hanging on their every word, no one mentioned anything about traffic.

Apr. 05 2013 01:05 PM
Bruce from NYC

Been struck three times in my life while crossing with the light and in a cross walk. Once by a bus when I was about twelve (school crossing); once by a police car while cross on a raining and windy night (no injury, just ended up on the hood of the car); and the last time by a cab. He said that I had just "suddenly appeared" in the cross walk. Drivers in NYC don't drive. They place bets on pedestrian behaviour. All of these incidents happened as a result of someone NOT yielding to the pedestrian but instead becoming invested in wagering that I would walk at either a pace fast enough or slow enough to take me out of their path or not enter their pathway. Luckily for me the last time I could walk away from it. Limping. If I hadn't, well, it was right across the street from the City morgue. Next time, if there is a next time, I do plan on taking the law into my own hands. (The cops? They are a joke. They don't enforce the law, they play with statistics. Legal masturbation is what they do best. I say that as someone who was assaulted by his landlord under Giuliani. Arrest him? No, mediation was suggested. God forbid they should have an assault on their hands.)

Apr. 05 2013 12:59 PM
art525 from Park Slope

steve from manhattan- you are being disingenuous. As someone else here said, I too feel like cheering when the rare biker pays attention to traffic signals. I never see bikers stop for red lights. And I often see bikers ride right through a crowd of pedestrians crossing in a cross walk with the right of way. Bikers regularly ride the wrong wy down one way streets. On my regular commute on 9th street in Brooklyn there are bike lines on both sides of the steet and yet bikers often ride on the sidewalk. ANd no I am not limiting it to bike messengers. (I think it is classist for bikers to point the finger at bike messsengers. They are no worse than the average biker). I have called bikers on riding on the sidewalk when they have two bike lanes and their response is always I'm only going a block. So what? ANd finally steve I never ever see bikers being tiketed for their violations. In Prospect Park the police made a lame effort to enforce the laws one Sunday afternoon after two or three pedestrians had been hospitalized having been hit by bkiers. When they had the light I might add. One woman was in a coma with brian damage. Because of the uproar these awful incidents caused the police made a half hearted effort to control bikers. I watched as a biker ran a red light dodging through pedestrians. A cop standing there signaled him to pull over and he kept riding. After all how was the cop going to catch him? ANd there was no way to trace him since he had no license posted. I'm afraid as many comments posted here demonstrate are experience with bikers is much different than yours.

Apr. 04 2013 02:25 PM
Seth from UWS, Manhattan

I was just nearly clipped by an a-hole messenger running through a red light on 6th and 23rd not more than 15 minutes ago, but it's nothing new, it happens almost daily. I can only hope a white bike memorial will soon be placed in his honor somewhere.

I wish little miss hyphen name pet project world eco savior bike freak gets clobbered sometime so she can fully enjoy the fruits of her labor. Cars are awful, cabs are the worst and bikers who flout traffic laws need to be prosecuted. If they want to make it a safe walking city, get rid of ALL vehicles and make the requirements to own and operate a death machine more stringent.

Apr. 04 2013 11:14 AM

Whilst I agree with stronger punishments, it is not the whole solution. Nobody ever talks about placement of street lights and street signs. I grew up in London where street name signs are clearly visible from all 4 angles, and written in a very large bold font, black on white. Trying to read street names from your car in the city (when they are there at all) is a game of chance. Drivers and pedestrians whose attention are distracted by trying to find or read street signs which are written at a virtually illegible size for most people, will of course be an accident waiting to happen. I have seen this on occasions too numerous to mention.

Likewise there is a significant traffic light issue. In London lights are placed at a lower level and at every side so ALL drivers can clearly see the lights from all angles. The scariest thing for me about driving in New York, including and especially in NYC, is that at certain angles you cannot clearly see the traffic lights, they are frequently placed too high to be visible, especially when you are at the front of the intersection. This is insane, and I am sure contributes heavily to accidents.

Finally I would like a little rant about being able to turn on a red light outside of the city. When people are allowed to go through a stop sign at ANY time it gives them a message that traffic rules are arbitrary. STOP SHOULD BE STOP. All of these drivers will be coming into the cities at some point and these elastic driving regulations make them bad and dangerous city drivers. You only had to look at the number of RTAs that occurred in the power outage post Sandy to realise that people do not respect the basic rules (let alone civility) of the road. When I grew up, in school we had to learn the Highway Code; it taught you to be a good and respectful pedestrian and a good and respectful cyclist, which was good preparation for becoming a good and respectful driver.

As far as cyclists in NYC are concerned, I think the time has come that if you want to cycle in the city you should have to pass a test and have a licence. They are overwhelmingly inconsiderate @#%!s who are the first to cry foul when they get hit, but themselves break rules literally at every turn. In London the police used to be able to just confiscate your bike on the spot for such things - oh the good old days...Here the police are obviously far too busy intimidating black youth to even notice the major bodily hazard that is your average cyclist.

Apr. 04 2013 10:57 AM
steve from Manhattan

As a 30+ year NYC bike commuter, as well as pedestrian and driver, my biggest problem is always non-attentive people, and primarily non-attentive pedestrians. Whether texting or reading or wearing ear-buds that block out my bell and my shouts, or just not paying attention, pedestrians routinely saunter and weave in bike lanes, step into the street while waiting for the light to cross, walk entire blocks in the street as if the sidewalk is broken, and cross streets mid-block, often darting out from in between parked cars, etc. etc. As for vehicles, I find that most taxi drivers try to avoid problems even if they are lousy drivers -- the fines and paperwork give them incentive to at least try to avoid bikers and pedestrians (not so, the livery cabs & town-cars who feel entitled to drive as they wish and NEVER use their directional turn signal). Finally, EXCLUDING restaurant delivery bikers who as a group are a total menace to society, most bikers are courteous and obey the laws mostly -- not biking on sidewalks, not going the wrong way against traffic direction, and not blowing through red lights. Yes, we often go through the light when the intersection is clear -- but this is to get out of what could quickly become a dangerous intersection if we wait... Those who bike the wrong way or on sidewalks ABSOLUTELY should be ticketed, but so should everyone who does something boneheaded (or illegal). NYPD pays no attention to pedestrians, and rarely stop cars for illegal and serious infractions. However, they pay undue attention to street bikers, and give us frivolous and absurd tickets that rarely get upheld in court...

Apr. 04 2013 10:56 AM

@Susan - Great post!

I'd add that another vulnerable point for pedestrian crossing is when the light first goes green. That's when many drivers making right turns will do their best to beat the pedestrians crossing.

Apr. 04 2013 10:46 AM
Shane Patrice from United States

How about changing the pedestrian walk signs to reflect turning traffic uses same green for Go sign. Signals should be LARGER + visually reflect 2 way traffic, both pedestrian & turning vehicles. So many times I have seen close calls on Amsterdam Avenue + West 79th St + Amsterdam Avenue + West 81st Street where the busses turn to go East.
There should definitely be at least 15 seconds between each change of every Walk signal + Green Light in Manhattan / Many times I've seen elderly or disabled people caught 3/4 of the way across the street. The last time on West 96th St. + Broadway it was an elderly lady hit by a car who was in compliance w/the lights but the lady just couldn't make across in time & in the dusk her dark coloring + clothing made it difficult to see her. It was a terrible thing to witness both for her, the driver + his family. I held her hand till the ambulance arrived as she writhed in pain. We Need More Time to Cross & Bigger, Visual Stop/ Walk/3Way lighted Cross Signs.

Apr. 04 2013 10:44 AM
Susan from Manhattan

The city needs a widespread overhaul on traffic of all kinds. Not only do we need massive consciousness raising awareness campaigns (anyone remember the "Don't Cross The Street In The Middle Of The Block" television campaign?). Drivers who hit pedestrians and bicyclists need to face dire consequences, especially if the victim is killed. We need officers at the most troublesome spots and cameras monitoring lights for speeders, street bumps, pedestrian islands, bike lanes, barriers on sidewalks to stop cars from jumping the curb, etc.
The suburban and borough drivers coming into Manhattan are not used to the number of pedestrians we have here and often drive as if walkers do not exist, racing through yellow lights at the same time pedestrians do (we MUST have staggered lights to allow pedestrians time to cross). And....there are too many trucks.
Walkers, Bicyclists, Drivers...all need to monitor and change their behavior and the city needs to take the obvious steps needed to slow down speeders.
The accidents are not "accidents," they are the result of careless behaviors.
A TIP TO PEDESTRIANS CROSSING THE STREET: HOLD UP YOUR HAND IN A "STOP" MANNER AS YOU CROSS THE STREET. It's amazing how the drivers respond...they actually slow down...and the trucks just might be able to see you. The best time to cross at the walk is at the first turn of your green light/walk sign...along with the rest of the crowd. The most vulnerable moment is trying to get across as the light is changing from yellow to red: you can bet there is a car racing to make the turn against you.

Apr. 04 2013 10:40 AM
Butcher from williamsburg

All cyclists are also pedestrians and are probably drivers as well. On the other hand most pedestrians and most drivers are not cyclists. Whichever mode of transport you choose, you are responsible for the safety of others to the extent of the damage that you can cause. Pedestrians are a close second to cyclists in the potential harm they cause. If the NYC police want to make our streets safer they need to enforce traffic rules for everyone, not just cyclists. That includes unsafe taxis and oblivious pedestrians occupying the bike path.

Apr. 04 2013 10:35 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I was hoping to have a chance to say more on the air than "It happened to me"! For example, many people I've told the story to say things about cab drivers, but I always discourage them from generalizing like that.

For people who are blaming pedestrians (!), I wasn't using a cell phone--I'm more likely to be reading while I walk, but I always put down what I'm reading (or whatever else I'm doing) when I cross the street. If anything, I was looking to see if a driver who was about to have the light turn green might be jumping the light from the other direction, & even so I saw the cab that hit me come around the corner. Before the accident, my usual beef about crosswalks was that drivers waiting for the light actually block the crosswalk, sometimes in a way that makes pedestrians have to walk out into traffic to cross the street.

I agree that it can actually be safer to cross the street against the light, because it's easier to see a car coming from the sides (& often the street is clear for a block or more) than a car that has the light coming from behind you.

Apr. 04 2013 10:31 AM
Joe from brooklyn

As a resident (and driver) in Brooklyn, I witness dangerous driving on a daily basis. It is everyone: taxis, trucks and commuters. There absolutely needs to be more enforcement of existing laws (speeding, red lights, turning into pedsestrian walkways without yielding, etc.). Mayor Bloomberg recently was trying to have legislation passed to have more traffic cameras. This was defeated. The policemen's benevolent association was one of the bill's staunchest opponents, as they favor hiring more police officers instead. Now we have neither cameras nor more police...I don't understand why violation of traffic laws which lead to injury or death are not prosecuted more vehemently.

Apr. 04 2013 10:31 AM


Apr. 04 2013 10:30 AM
lin from Manahttan,Licoln Center area

I find looking in every direction before stepping off the curb essential but even that
doesn't guarentee my safety. Even when having looked carefullynd believe it's safe to cross at a crosswalk, a vehicle might be edging itself into the crosswalk just waiting to zoom past me. It's absolutely scary---not to mention SIDEWALK danger. Now that it's getting warmer children/teenagers and/or adults are riding bicylcles, scooters, skateboards on the sidewalk. Often parents/caretakers are strolling way behind or in fornt of young children with neither awarness or concern that pedistrians can easily be hurt.

Apr. 04 2013 10:28 AM
Tony from Canarsie

In the case of reckless drivers and daredevil cyclists, "the bird" truly is the word. I'm amazed that my middle finger doesn't have carpel tunnel syndrome.

Apr. 04 2013 10:28 AM
Bob from Westchester

@ jfc from Greenpoint: I think bullet-proof vests for elementary school students was one of the recommendations in the NRA school safety report released yesterday.

Apr. 04 2013 10:25 AM
Martin from brooklyn

after 14 years riding bikes in the city without a crash (touch wood) I've come to realize that the only way to protect yourself on a bike is to ride incredibly defensively. you have a legal right to hold a lane on a bike. so dont hug the parked cars as you ride. the biggest danger zone is being car-doored, and so the most dangerous riding position is putting yourself in the space where cars push past cyclists dangerously. Stay far enough out in the road that you cant be doored, where drivers have to SEE you and consciously drive around you.

Apr. 04 2013 10:23 AM
Jf from Common sense

Trucks are allowed to kill cyclists and always get away with it. Cars never stop for pedestrians crossing at a walk sign. They always try to drive over my heels, even when im with my child. I always make themm stop and usually scream at them. I suggest more people do this. Something about driving makes people extreamly selfish, and disregarding of human life. Its like they thi.k they are in a video game.

Apr. 04 2013 10:22 AM
Bonn from East Village

I was run over by a bicyclist in the plaza at Union Square Park. He was speeding backwards, came out of nowhere, wasn't looking (obviously) and plowed into the top of my foot. He barely acknowledged what he had done. A year later, my foot still aches. I can't tell you how many times I have almost been hit by reckless bicyclist while I was crossing the street. They are going too fast, going the wrong way, and don't seem to care about pedestrians. It's like having a weapon on wheels. They need to be ticketed. Maybe no one is getting killed, but there are certainly a lot of unreported injuries and maiming.

Apr. 04 2013 10:22 AM

Most people often behave illogically and carelessly, so both the driver (be it taxi or bike...) and the pedestrian could be at fault. That's human nature. How do we improve/change? I remember in biology lab when I was in school, by conditioning. Keep forcing the mouse to do certain things (well, with enticements, sometimes). Educate. I don't see such civics being taught in the family and school. The NYPD doesn't do its share either. Bottom line though - a bike or a car is much stronger than a human being. So... a stronger hand perhaps should be applied to the careless or uncaring driver.

Apr. 04 2013 10:22 AM
Deborah from Manhattan

Two thoughts - how many miles do taxi drivers drive vs. other types of drivers? It's likely that taxis cover many more miles than any other type of driver or given class of driver. That would be a far more useful statistic and set an appropriate context.

Secondly, as a frequent pedestrian, go after the damn cyclists. I practically applaud when one of them follows traffic rules.

Apr. 04 2013 10:22 AM

Pedestrians are as responsible as drivers and bicyclists when they enter the crosswalk. If pedestrians thought more like drivers, a lot of these accidents would not happen...

Apr. 04 2013 10:21 AM
hlee from Manhattan

The seats are very low in my car (VW New Beetle) and can't be adjusted anymore than I already have nor can I adjust the left mirror (I'm 5'3"). When I first started using my new car I had so many near misses while making left turns because the mirror blocked my view of anyone crossing. I wrote VW about it but never received a response. I wonder if other cars have this design flaw. I now make sure to check the crossing before I make left turns but sometimes people run out before I can see them. I'm afraid that I may not be able to see someone fast enough because of this obstruction.

Apr. 04 2013 10:21 AM
Marie from NYC

Traffic police should be allowed to give tickets to drivers who run red lights and pedestrians who jay walk.

Apr. 04 2013 10:21 AM
jfc from Greenpoint

Saying cyclists should be wearing helmets in regards to accidents is like saying people should wear bullet proof vests to deal with gun violence.

Apr. 04 2013 10:20 AM
Bob from Westchester

Your "expert" should know that most intersections in midtown already have a delayed right turn to allow pedestrians to go first The data is already there to be studied Doesn't he ever go into the field?

Apr. 04 2013 10:20 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

A lot of drivers in NYC simply do not obey traffic laws and regulation that means both taxis and other vehicles. The cops in turn are not massively ticketing rule backers. The cops don’t give rat’s ass.
Here in Westchester the cops are consistently ticketing rule backers.

Apr. 04 2013 10:20 AM
Cab from NYC

2 words: Left Turns.

This is the most potentially hazardous move a driver can make especially on 2 way streets.

Ban left turns off 2 way streets except for dedicated turning lanes and lights.
Left turn only off of 1 way streets.

I myself was once hit in a crosswalk by a left turning motorist at 10th and 34th in Manhattan.

Apr. 04 2013 10:19 AM

As a cyclist, I can confirm that cyclists are the most egregious violators of traffic lights and fundamental etiquette.

Apr. 04 2013 10:19 AM
Cynthia from Brooklyn

One way to increase the odds of criminalizing driver behavior would be to presume that any motorist who ended up on the sidewalk was reckless.

Apr. 04 2013 10:18 AM

It seems to me that many drivers watch only for other cars. Pedestrians and cyclists seem to be invisible to them.

Apr. 04 2013 10:18 AM
Olivia from Brooklyn

It's the aggressive NY attitude. People bring their NYC "Me First" and "it's all about ME" attitude.

i feel so passionately about this because I was hit by a car (not in NYC) when I was a kid. In this city, people behave so badly. How many of us have been nudged by a car, or menaced by a car as we walked to the other side of the road?

Apr. 04 2013 10:18 AM

I read somewhere that drivers who do not yield to pedestrians when making turns actually think they have the right of way, which to me is more terrifying than if they were just rude. There should be signs everywhere.

Apr. 04 2013 10:18 AM
Sara from Bushwick

I almost hit a girl in a crosswalk a few months ago - she was crossing against her light and completely engrossed in texting.
Conversely every time I get on bike I have several near misses with inattentive drivers; people driving in the bike lane, turning with disregard to oncoming bike traffic, etc.

Apr. 04 2013 10:17 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

And if taxis represent so much risk, then why do we keep electing mayors and city councilmen who regularly sell more medallions? Reduce the number of medallions -- reduce the number of cabs. It's that easy.

Apr. 04 2013 10:17 AM

Does this number account for people LEGALLY crossing in cross walks?? People always use crosswalks but jet in front of cars and literally walk right into traffic.

Apr. 04 2013 10:16 AM

Every day I fear for my life while dealing with speeding drivers and those who ignore pedestrian signs, all within 1-2 blocks of the 94th pct.

Apr. 04 2013 10:16 AM
Gerard from Manhattan

I just wonder if we should allow drivers to turn right on red so as to increase the opportunities for turning while still yielding to pedestrians.

Apr. 04 2013 10:16 AM

Everyone is talking about the problem with cars... I've been almost hit by cyclists four times, all while crossing in the crosswalk and I had the light. So its not just drivers.

Apr. 04 2013 10:15 AM
pliny from soho

its the right hand turn
that creates a blind spot
especially for trucks

Apr. 04 2013 10:15 AM

I think it indicates that there is NO such thing as pedestrian carte blanche.

Just because you're correct does NOT mean you're not also dead.

Wake up!! UNPLUG...and pay ATTENTION!!

Apr. 04 2013 10:14 AM
mbk from manhattan

I walk a lot and I see many near misses (of accidents), and the fault is by and large that of the pedestrians! I see people taking foolish risks ALL the time. It is a miracle that there are not many more accidents, so I think these numbers are not completely accurate.

Apr. 04 2013 10:14 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

The authors of this survey interviewed injured pedestrians only: they did not seek out the other parties' accounts of the incidents in question. It stands to reason that many of those patients were at least considering filing suit against the drivers. What possible reason would they have to admit even a shred of culpability? This kind of "news" is farcical at best, mendacious at worst, and clearly manipulative.

I lived and worked for many years along the so-called "boulevard of death," Queens Blvd, and in ALL of the pedestrian-vehicular collisions that I had witnessed, the pedestrian was at fault -- for crossing against the light, for crossing in the middle of the block, etc, etc. All up-and-down Queens Blvd one can avoid crossing the boulevard altogether, by utilizing the underpasses in the subway stations -- yet terribly few people so choose. Why isn't that reported?

Apr. 04 2013 10:14 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

My biggest fear when using a crosswalk, is being run over by a bicycle.

Cyclists are far the worst abusers of running through red lights.

Apr. 04 2013 10:13 AM
art525 from Park Slope

Any chance you'll discuss bikers ignoring traffic rules and ignoring red lights and not yielding to pedestrians? Will there be a call for enforcement of laws for bikers? I'm guessing the answer would be no.

Apr. 04 2013 10:11 AM

I have nearly been hit by a car three times in my life -- each time i was in a crosswalk. I have had two co-workers over the years hit by a car. They, too, were in the crosswalk. I often jay-walk because when I see that I have ample time to cross -- at least I can see what's coming and determine if I have enough time. I have advised my daughter (now 13) that unless there is a crossing guard or a large group crossing with her, that she should do the same.

Apr. 04 2013 10:09 AM

Books can be written on The Left Turn. Scarier than Cheney.

Apr. 04 2013 10:04 AM

This should be about aggressive cabs making turns THE VERY SECOND the light turns green, not about walkers with ipods!!
The pedestrians should get the walk sign 20 -30 seconds before the red light turns green.

Apr. 04 2013 09:43 AM

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