NYC DOT: Pedestrian-on-Pedestrian Crashes Alarmingly Frequent

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(Image: CC by Flickr user Professor Bop)

(Rufus Q Stripe, Transportation Nation) According to the first-ever comprehensive traffic study to include the category, pedestrian-on-pedestrian crashes are rampant in all five boroughs of New York City. The Department of Transportation study finds there were just over 38 million crashes in 2010 that involved two or more pedestrians and fewer than one bike, car, truck, train or other vehicle. The most dangerous times and locations, the study concludes, are the Lower East Side late at night, near Port Authority during rush hour, Flushing’s Chinatown on weekends and the Brooklyn Bridge during tourist season.

“Frankly, we were just shocked to find out that the average New Yorker is involved in 4.6 pedestrian-on-pedestrian crashes every year,” said Deputy Transportation Commissioner Gustav Andando, who requested the study as part of a broader campaign of data-based policy making.

“The national average walking speed is 3 m.p.h.,” he said, citing the US DOT's Federal Walking Adminstration.  “In New York, it’s way higher, at 4.4 m.p.h., so this is an especially dangerous epidemic for us here.”

Single pedestrian collisions with stationary objects were not counted, a controversial omission critics say biases the study towards the appearance of safer sidewalks and parking lots. “Thousands of people each year are bumped, knicked, mildly perturbed or worse because of completely preventable sidewalk traffic accidents,” said Councilwoman Bonnie Marchez who is calling for a version of the sidewalk lanes that were successfully piloted by perambulation consultants last summer.

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Stanford University professor of peripatetics Clifford Walker said, "our own research has shown a spike in ped-to-ped collisions, even hard ones, due to texting while walking, iPod shuffling while walking and other mobile electronics usage while on the go." Angry Birds, Walker says, is a particularly worrisome sidewalk scourge.

The detailed DOT study maps out the most dangerous intersections, narrow doorways and train platforms. However, the DOT excluded city parks because the rate of intentional pedestrian collisions there was corrupting the broader message of the data: nobody likes getting bumped into.

For a similar reason, the DOT says, it excluded child-on-child pedestrian collisions. “The number would have been even higher if we had included kids under six. Man do they get in a heap of P-on-P crashes every day,” said DOT statistician Marge N. Overa. “Counting that, wooo, I wouldn’t wish that on any DOT assistant ambulation analyst. No way.”

A high placed official in the Mayor's office, who asked not to be named due to the increasingly contentious and politicized nature of pedestrian-on-pedestrian collisions, stressed that city streets are still pleasant to walk on, and people should not change their commuting habits. “Walking is still safe in New York. In fact, survival rates of pedestrian-on-pedestrian collisions are in the upper 99th percentile thanks to modern medicine, the nature of walking, and what with people being much softer than cars are."

"This is still the safest large city in America," he said.

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