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More New Yorkers Die in Traffic Than are Killed by Guns--And That's Best in the Country

Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - 06:41 PM

NYC intersection with pedestrian island and bike lane. (Photo by: NYC DOT)

(New York, NY - WNYC)  A New Yorker is killed every 35 hours in a traffic crash, according to a new report.That's more than are killed by guns.

Domestically, that's not a bad record. New York has fewer road fatalities per capita than any other large U.S. city, according to the city DOT.  But in European cities, like Paris and Berlin, the fatality rate is one half of New York's.

The report by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy is pushing for a goal of zero traffic fatalities.

Transportation Alternatives Spokesman Michael Murphy says it's time to catch up with European cities. "For us to pat ourselves on the back to have reduced traffic fatalities as much as we have is to say that those remaining hundred to three hundred people a year who are dying is acceptable," he said. "It's absolutely not."  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan frequently tout New York's diminishing traffic fatality rate as a sign of success of their street redesign initiatives.

The Transportation Alternatives/DMI report says most of those killed in accidents are pedestrians, and the majority of deaths are caused by speeding cars on wide roadways like Queens Boulevard. A separate study, by Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says senior citizens are most at risk.

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow told Transportation Nation that the city has already launched anti-speeding campaigns, added countdown signals to hundreds of intersections and re-engineered streets to make them safer for children and seniors. "You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that safety is the most important priority for this agency," he said. "We will not stop in our efforts until we make our streets safe for all New Yorkers."

Transportation Alternatives and the DOT do agree on what to do next. Both favor street calming measures like curb extensions, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes. Here's the DOT's pedestrian safety plan.

That doesn't mean it's going to happen. Those measures have been criticized by some elected officials for impeding vehicular traffic, and some critics say pedestrian islands and other calming measures can block emergency vehicles.

A report by advocacy group Transportation Alternatives says a New Yorker is killed every 35 hours in a traffic crash. That's more than are killed by guns.

Domestically, that's not a bad record. New York has fewer road fatalities per capita than any other large U.S. city, according to the city DOT.  But in European cities, like Paris and London, the fatality rate is one half of New York's.

Transportation Alternatives Spokesman Michael Murphy says it's time to catch up. "For us to pat ourselves on the back to have reduced traffic fatalities as much as we have is to say that those remaining hundred to three hundred people a year who are dying is acceptable," he said. "It's absolutely not."

The report says most of those killed in accidents are pedestrians, and the majority of deaths are caused by speeding cars on wide roadways like Queens Boulevard. A separate study, by Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says senior citizens are most at risk.

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow told WNYC that the city has already launched anti-speeding campaigns, added countdown signals to hundreds of intersections and re-engineered streets to make them safer for children and seniors. "You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that safety is the most important priority for this agency," he said. "We will not stop in our efforts until we make our streets safe for all New Yorkers."

Transportation Alternatives and the DOT do agreed on what to do next. Both favor street calming measures like curb extensions, pedestrian islands and bike lanes.

That doesn't mean it's going to happen. Those measures have been criticized by some elected officials for impeding vehicular traffic, and some critics say pedestrian island and other calming measures can block emergency vehicles.

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