NYCDOT Releases Landmark Ped Safety Study, Will Pilot 20 MPH Zones

To make walking safer, New York City will re-engineer 60 miles of streets per year and pilot the use of neighborhood-scale 20 mph zones, the city’s top electeds and transportation officials announced this morning. The commitments are among several street safety measures unveiled today, accompanying NYCDOT’s release of a landmark report analyzing the causes of serious pedestrian injuries and deaths, which affect thousands of New Yorkers every year.

arterials.jpgNYCDOT will build out at least 20 miles of "intensive" safety improvements each year to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities on the city’s most dangerous streets. Graphic courtesy of NYCDOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and NYPD transportation chief James Tuller were all on hand for the press event in Queens where the initiative was announced.

“We’ve made historic gains in reducing traffic fatalities, and this
year we are seeing pedestrians fatalities decline again,” Bloomberg
said in a statement. “But we still see too many families devastated by
traffic accidents. The report and actions detailed today, including the
installation of pedestrian countdown signals across the city, will make
our streets even safer, especially for the pedestrians who, year in and
year out, account for the majority of New York’s traffic fatalities.”

The report, which you can download here, analyzes crashes that caused 7,000 serious pedestrian injuries and deaths in New York City. Among the findings: Driver inattention is the most common cause of crashes that seriously injure or kill pedestrians; failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk is responsible for 27 percent of such crashes; speeding is a factor in more than 20 percent of such crashes, but most New Yorkers don’t know the citywide speed limit is 30 mph.

DOT has outlined a range of actions to meet the agency’s goal of cutting pedestrian fatalities to half the 2007 level by 2030, a target set in its strategic plan, known as Sustainable Streets, in 2008. Each year, the agency will re-engineer 60 miles of streets to improve safety. Along these corridors, at least 20 miles of streets will receive "intensive" safety improvements, such as sidewalk widenings or pedestrian refuges, that alter the geometry of the street. DOT will also launch the city’s first 20 mph zone in a yet-to-be-selected neighborhood in 2011, part of a pilot program intended to "slow traffic on an area-wide, rather than individual street, basis." The citywide roll-out of 1,500 pedestrian countdown signals, which Bloomberg referred to, comes after a DOT pilot showed that they reduce injuries and that pedestrians prefer them to regular signals.

The investment in designing safer streets will be paired with several traffic enforcement and education measures. We’ll have a more detailed re-cap, with highlights from the press conference, later today.

66 thoughts on NYCDOT Releases Landmark Ped Safety Study, Will Pilot 20 MPH Zones

  1. I’m going to read this more closely, but based on a quick scan:

    1. In looking at ” Who are the Drivers”, I’d like to see the report showing demographics of where the vehicles INVOLVED in accidents were registered. Its really meaningless for the report to highlight that “80% of pedestrian KSI crashes involved male drivers, while only 57% of New York City vehicles are registered to men.” As if only NYC registered vehicles were involved in accidents! Ditto for trucks. Registration in NYC really doesn’t mean much when we have so much interstate and intercity transportation here. This sort of thing makes it look like a lazy report.

    2. In the NY Times report on this, the map showing the locations with six or more fatalities or serious injuries(2002-2006), seems to show that 4 of the 14 locations (and 26 of the 93 accidents) are clustered in near the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. We all know these locations are inundated with though-traffic that would be using the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge if there wasn’t a double toll for traffic using the Staten Island route into New Jersey and no toll at all for traffic going over these 2 bridges and on to the Holland Tunnel. Its past time to fix this.

  2. Alon, I have no idea what you think was “made up.” Can you please clarify?

    I think my point was clear – one-way operations often provide opportunities for pedestrian improvements that cannot be accommodated with two-way street operations. The specific example of Madison Square is not “made up,” but please read on if you need a little more explanation to understand…

    Madison Square would not be further improved by making Fifth Avenue and Broadway two-way streets. If you believe it would, by all means, please provide some plausible design. I have worked on this intersection – so I have no reservation stating that you could not possibly come up with more pedestrian space or safer movements for pedestrians or cyclists by cutting through with two-way traffic. I challenge anyone to show otherwise.

    If you think First and Second Avenues could provide better dedicated bus lanes and protected bicycle lanes by converting them back to two-way streets, you need to explain how. Or, if you think those improvements are unworthy, please explain why.

    Mike Epstein perhaps does a better job than I in making the key point – it’s all about the particular circumstances. Are there cases where two-way streets are better? Absolutely. Is that true of most, if not all, of the Manhattan Avenues? Absolutely not.

    The idea that two-way streets are always better than one-way streets is just another form of the defective thinking that formerly caused people to try improving traffic by always adding more lanes. To borrow Mr. Epstein’s word, the “subtleties” really matter.

  3. Just to be perfectly clear:

    Page 6 of the link on the pedestrian improvement of Madison Square shows the before condition when Fifth Avenue was a one-way street at the same location as the photo of Fifth Avenue as a two-way street.

    It is clear enough that even without the pedestrian improvements, it was already much less hostile to pedestrians. Far from good, but not nearly as bad. And – as I explained – the one-way configuration allowed more space to be reclaimed when the pedestrian improvements were designed than would ever be possible if you insisted on accommodating bi-directional auto movements.

  4. “I am only suggesting that two-way street discourage high-speed traffic, which is good for everyone. Don’t believe me? Go watch traffic on a two-way street and a one-way street, and get back to me.”

    That depends upon so many factors-lane width, presence of a median, number of driveways, the type of street leading into it, etc. I don’t know if you’re familiar with streets like 164th Street between the Grand Central Parkway and LIE, or Union Turnpike, or Queens Boulevard, to name a few local to me. All are two-way, and the traffic can hardly be described as sedate by any standard. In fact, normal traffic speeds on these roads often make the one-way avenues in Manhattan look tame by comparison. 60-70 mph after about midnight on 164th Street is normal, and 40-50 mph pretty much most other times except when traffic is dense. And yes, this street even has a bike lane which supposedly “calms” traffic. Then you have this little section of Jewel Avenue between 164th Street and 168th Street. Used to be two-way. It also is very narrow, so narrow in fact that with the parked cars on both sides the two-way traffic barely had enough room to pass each other. So here we had a street which was both two-way, and very narrow lanes. According to what you’re saying, traffic should have moved relatively slowly. Nevertheless, these factors still didn’t seem to stop the cars from flying down it, often in excess of 40 mph ( and this is a residential street, with private houses on both sides, not a commercial thoroughfare ). The DOT decided to make it one way for that stretch on account of the sheer number of accidents. Traffic didn’t get noticeably faster. In fact, if anything it may have slowed down a bit, although a new 4-way stop sign on 166th Street might be partially the reason for that.

    What I’m trying to say is one-way versus two-way is a simplistic argument. I think more streets should be one-way, and left turns prohibited, at least for cars, simply because this makes getting around harder, and discourages driving. Same thing with parking. The less of it there is, the less people will drive. In Manhattan especially, a car is largely a convenience, not a necessity, unless you have some type of business where you’re lugging around heavy equipment all day. I have nothing against cars, but they’re really meant for places like the suburbs or rural areas, not a densely populated city like New York with a myriad of other transportation options.

    Buses ( and bikes for that matter ) don’t necessarily need to be bound by the same rules as cars. The argument that one-way streets cause bus riders to walk more is specious at best. No reason you can’t have a street which is one way for cars, but has a pair of lanes physically separated for exclusive use by buses, one lane in each direction. And you could add a bidirectional bike lane while you’re at it. It doesn’t make things much more difficult for pedestrians who decide to jaywalk ( and yes, I’m a big supporter of this practice, despite its technical illegality, because it is much safer than crossing at corners, provided you look first ). The jaywalkers will have their main focus in the direction of car travel only for most of the crossing. When they hit the bus and/or bike lanes, sure the have to look both ways, but bus and bike traffic is going to be very light compared to auto traffic. It shouldn’t be a problem. Have a refuge median where they can wait and look for buses/bikes after crossing the car lanes. Or maybe separate the bus lanes, one direction on each side of the street, and put the bike lane next to one of the bus lanes. Very simple, solves all the issues you bought up, while still keeping the one-way traffic patterns which tend to discourage driving.

    As for traffic speeds, I’ll agree that car speeds need to be bought down for the simple reason that there are so many cars, each with the potential to kill/injure a pedestrian or a cyclist. For vehicles which only pass sporadically, like buses in a bus lane, if anything they should be allowed to travel much faster than 30 mph, and also to preempt lights ( perhaps even with gates physically blocking traffic from crossing the bus lane ). Again, not an issue for crossing pedestrians. A bus traveling even at 65 mph can be seen from blocks away, in plenty of time to decide to either cross or let it pass.

  5. @ChrisCo,

    The proposed plan to convert 6th and 7th Avenues in Park Slope from two-way to one-way were beaten back in huge outcry of neighborhood opposition. Park Slope Neighbors collected 2500 signatures opposing the change in just four days, and Community Board Six and the Park Slope Civic Council opposed the plan, as well.

    The avenues remain two-way today, and will, let’s hope, forever.

  6. Jay, did you click through the links I gave you? From multiple perspectives (walking distance, street design, service identity), BRT works better on a two-way street than on a one-way pair. It’ll take much less time for you to read the relevant chapters of the standards than for me to repeat what the standards say.

    And while it may be clear to you that Fifth was safer one-way than two-way, it’s not clear to us. Could you provide a reference? For example, how did converting the avenue to one-way impact the trend of car/pedestrian crashes? Without such evidence, saying that “It’s clear” is just making things up.

    If you still think it’s impossible for pedestrianization to work with two-way operation, then let’s start from the current configuration, and then make all remaining open north-south segments two-way. Lower Broadway would go from 2 southbound travel lanes to one travel lane in each direction, Fifth would get two travel lanes in each direction, and the connection at Madison Square would work exactly like it does today.

  7. I’m sorry, but your prognosis for Madison Square is missing a great deal, and partially just plain wrong.

    Let’s start with the plain wrong. There are only three southbound lanes on Fifth Avenue on the leg north of 23rd Street. You cannot make it two bounds in each direct (unless, perhaps, you are proposing eliminating the bike lane).

    Where do you suppose the additional space is going to come from to add the two additional bike lanes that would be necessary for complete northbound travel? Or are you really saying we should not have bike lanes?

    Even if you had the room, you would have to relocate both bike lanes from the left side of the street to the right side, putting them on the driver’s side, where they are more subject to dooring.

    Please explain how the signal timing is going to work to allow buses to make the left turn from southbound Broadway onto 23rd Street, when they would now have to cross oncoming traffic. That movement routinely backs up the intersection – including the crosswalk – given that heavy movement.

    Please explain how you would support a left-bound turn from northbound Fifth Avenue onto 23rd Street, without robbing time from pedestrians.

    Then explain why pedestrians crossing legs of the intersection where there are no conflict movements would be made safer and more comfortable by adding turning vehicles to cut them off. That would be everyone crossing on the north side of 23rd Street, which is, after all, the longest of the intersection.

    It is not nearly as simple as you would have it, and your proposal would make conditions far worse. (But if there were more appreciation for these nuances, we probably wouldn’t need to have this discussion about turning the Manhattan avenues into two-way streets in the first place…)

    As for Fifth being safer as a one-way street… sometimes things actually are just common sense! Like I said, a picture speaks a thousand words. You know quite well there are no comparable statistics for the type of analysis you demand. You don’t get to be right by demanding something you know doesn’t exist, I think you’re starting to get a little dishonest now…

    The fact there is no surviving comparable accident data doesn’t mean a basic interpretation of simple facts is “making things up.” I would hope we could all recognize that simpler traffic patterns with adequate refuges are safer for pedestrians than darting across traffic moving in many different directions at once, with no place to stop!

    If you really believe the two-way traffic, as clearly shown in the photo of Fifth, was safer for pedestrians than the one-way pattern that was simpler and offered more pedestrian refuge, please come up with some plausible reason how. I have to insist it defies basic common sense.

  8. Look – this this whole notion that two-way streets is safer comes from bad generalizations with faulty assumptions and weak evidence.

    To get to that conclusion, first you need to reduce your concern with safety to focus on one single factor: speed. Then you have to combine it with some weak evidence that one-way streets increase speeds (under some conditions) and generalize it to cases where it clearly does not apply – short blocks controlled with a signal progression.

    So perhaps it is a good idea to turn to the studies that do exist. It would be a shame if someone made things up!

    Let’s start with the DOT pedestrian safety study (you know, the topic of this discussion thread…)
    After their complete empirical analysis, the one-way avenues in Manhattan were not a concern. Instead: “Within Manhattan, a disproportionate number of pedestrian crashes occurred on major two-way streets.”

    This is, of course, consistent with earlier findings elsewhere:
    (See this summary from federal DOT:

    “A comprehensive study of pedestrian and bicycle crashes in several Canadian cities found fewer crashes on one-way streets in the core of a city than on two-way streets (Lea, 1978). Thus, conversion to a one-way street system may also be a relatively low-cost pedestrian countermeasure, having as high as 40-60 percent effectiveness on amenable crashes. However, the applicable crashes were estimated to represent only about 10 percent of the city total.

    A study in Manhattan, NY highlighted the aspects of one-way street grids that tend to provide safer traffic operation (Fruin, 1973). The simplification of the crossing and turning conditions, which has been noted to occur for vehicles at the intersection of two one-way streets, is also helpful to pedestrians.”

    Deductive reasoning and the existing analyses of empirical evidence alike point to the same conclusion: Madison Square would clearly be safer without reintroducing two-way traffic.

    Really, nobody’s making this up!

  9. First, the interpretations you cite about safety are wrong. There’s been a decades-long for fewer accidents per VMT, one unbroken by any improvements in safety or road safety.

    Second, modern buses have signal priority. This is how left turns work, at least in cities that bother doing it right.

    Third, you haven’t actually introduced any fact. You just keep saying that it’s common sense and that the picture speaks for itself. It doesn’t.

    Fourth, Fifth can go to one lane per direction if two is impossible. It’s not a big deal.

    And fifth, you’re acting as if there aren’t a ton of safe pedestrian crossings, right here in Manhattan, involving two-way streets. Go to the intersection of Amsterdam and 125th, or Broadway and 145th, and see for yourself. It works fine with just two cycles, one for north-south traffic and one for east-west.

  10. Did you post the wrong link? I don’t see where it says anything that would remotely suggest two-way streets are safer than one-way streets. All the studies I provided were explicit on that point. Where are you having problems finding the facts?

    Let me help: The FACT is all empirical evidence presented shows that one-way streets tend to be safer. The FACT is the DOT found a need to focus on dangerous two-way streets in Manhattan, and didn’t find any problem with Manhattan’s one-way avenues.

    The idea of making the avenues two-way is a solution looking for a problem. The FACT is that there isn’t a single shred of evidence that even suggested these avenues need to be changed.

    The FACTS I presented (a clear example of the deficiencies of a two-way configuration at a cherished public space) as well as the safety studies that are available speak for themselves.

    Despite a little hand waving, you still haven’t come up with a plausible example of how Madison Square could be made two-way without gutting the pedestrian spaces, introducing a lot more turning conflicts, and eliminating the bike lanes.

    Please, please be honest enough to address the bicycle issues!

    Please explain how you think you allow signal priority for left-turning buses without creating a separate signal phase (which robs time from pedestrians and invariably results in more conflicts with peds).

    Please explain how the southbound Fifth Avenue approach would not fail with a single-lane combining left-turns and through moves across heavy oncoming traffic.

    None of what you describe is remotely feasible.

    As clarification for your outrageous claim, I never suggested there are no safe two-way streets. Far from it! I clearly acknowledged that there are circumstances where two-way streets can be more appropriate. Your mischaracterization of what I’ve plainly written is just as bad as your insistence that Madison Square would be better for pedestrians by being gutted with two-way traffic.

    What I have insisted is that there is no evidence anywhere to suggest the one-way Manhattan avenues would be safer by making them two-way, and all evidence and deductive reasoning in fact agree it would likely make them less safe.

    Oh… and the FACT is that, unless they just recently changed it since I was last there, left-turning southbound vehicles from Amsterdam Avenue onto 125th Street have a left-turn phase. Not that most people would ever characterize that intersection as a successful, enjoyable pedestrian environment! (Anyone who is interested can check Google Maps quickly and see the left-turn signal head…)

    (Quick note for your edification, the intersection’s “cycle” has a “phase” for left-turning SB vehicles, a permissive phase for through and left SB movements, and a phase for E-W movements. It is important to use accurate terminology if you want people to take you seriously.)

  11. Jay, here’s a little piece of advice: when you ignore international standards of how good bus service should work, you shouldn’t use phrases like “if you want people to take you seriously.” It makes you look like a hack who’s familiar with Madison Square, but with little else in the world.

    The link I posted is what I intended to post. It makes no claim about one-way versus two-way; it makes claims about the idea that there are safety benefits to safer cars, safer roads, and safer technology. Instead, it shows, traffic accidents are determined by a constant based on how much people drive and how used the population is to driving. Plop the latest infrastructure and technology for cars in a developing country, where people aren’t as familiar with cars and still walk a lot, and you’ll get several times the per-VMT accident death rate.

  12. If you have an argument here somewhere, it’s so garbled it’s impossible to follow.

    Are you now saying that a one-way street can’t be safer than a two-way street, because you somehow interpret your study to mean the notion of safer streets is somehow flawed?

    Are you suggesting that your planning guidance (not a standard) somehow addressed the issues of signal progression, bicycle lanes, deliveries to Manhattan businesses without off-street loading, and New York political realities to determine that our avenues would work better if converted to two-way operations? Sorry, I just can’t find that in there.

    It makes some points that clearly suggest benefits of a consolidated two-way bus operation, but it also recognizes some points that make a split operation more desirable in some circumstances. There you go again with this notion that two-way is always better, and the circumstances don’t matter (despite any evidence or reasoning…)

    If you care to interpret these puts and takes in the planning guidance, be honest enough to explain the tradeoffs. The guidance does not say what you suggest. Nor did I ignore it – it simply did not make any coherent point to refute anything I’ve written on here. (Of course, if you think it did… well, then just elaborate on the point already!)

    And while you’re at it… can you please show the integrity to finally address the bicycle issues? This is streetsblog, after all!

  13. (pst! If you can’t even get your local intersection right when you choose to use as an example, I wouldn’t be calling someone else a hack…)

  14. Jay, you’re incomprehensible. The only thing I can salvage from your comment is “I don’t care about bus construction standards because this blog is about bicycles.” Sorry.

  15. Guys, I’ve enjoyed following the debate, but once it reaches this point, it’s time to stop. Please stick to arguing about the topic at hand and not about each other’s personal qualities. I’m closing this thread.

Comments are closed.


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