Groundbreaking NYCDOT Pedestrian Study Recommends Testing 20 mph Limit for Neighborhoods

Citing even one crash as “one crash too many,” New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on Monday released the city’s “roadmap for safety strategies.”  The study recommends four specific engineering and design strategies to improve pedestrian safety:

  • 20 mph zone pilot program in at least 75 residential neighborhoods;
  • dangerous corridor re-engineering on 60 miles of street per year;
  • dangerous intersection re-engineering at 20 intersections along major two-way Manhattan streets); and,
  • improving left-turn visibility by removing curb parking near intersections of targeted Manhattan avenues.

Joining the Commissioner at a Queens press conference were Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn, and several other elected officials.

The event also marked the end of what was deemed a successful pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of countdown pedestrian signals.  Using data from that pilot project, the city will initially install 1,500 countdown signals at the types of intersections where countdowns have been shown to be most effective.  Going forward, countdown signals will become standard for all new signal installations on wider streets.

The landmark Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan examines the details of more than 7,000 crash records over an eight year period, gleaning information on who is killed or injured, where, when, and under what circumstances.  The report is a follow-up to NYCDOT’s Sustainable Streets strategic plan, which established an ambitious goal of halving pedestrian fatalities by 2030.

Though the city recorded a record low number of pedestrian fatalities in 2009 – 256 deaths during the year – the share of total traffic deaths comprised by pedestrians rose to more than half, a statistic that helps make the case for prioritizing pedestrian safety.

Several of the study’s findings echo conclusions drawn by the Campaign’s recent reports.  In particular, DOT’s analysis shows that 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur on wide “arterials,” though they make up only 15 percent of the road network — a key finding of our Dangerous Roads report.  And, as with our Older Pedestrians at Risk report, the DOT notes that seniors are disproportionately represented among NYC pedestrian fatalities.

Among the report’s other interesting findings:

  • Driver inattention was cited as a factor in 36 percent of crashes with pedestrians, followed by 27 percent for failure to yield and 21 percent for speeding;
  • Left turn crashes outnumbered right turn crashes by 3-to-1, and crashes involving a lane change were twice as deadly as those that did not;
  • Streets with bicycle lanes are 40 percent less deadly for pedestrians than those without bicycle lanes.

NYCDOT also said it would improve public education through social marketing campaigns and seeking legislation “to increase the City’s enforcement capabilities to prevent dangerous speeding and red light-running.”

4 Comments on "Groundbreaking NYCDOT Pedestrian Study Recommends Testing 20 mph Limit for Neighborhoods"

  1. The real problem is that roads are being designed not for the posted speed limit, but for 20% over the posted speed limit. This is supposed to make it safer for motor vehicles, with wider lanes and turning lanes, but they are not designed for pedestrians since they end up taking longer to cross intersections. The “feel” of the roadway also leads to faster speeds, again making it more dangerous for those pedestians.

  2. @ W.K. Lis: Yes, this is a problem, but it is unfortunately universal here in America– NYC is not alone in this regard.

    I think one solution which NYC seriously needs to consider is the “Barnes Dance” at all major Manhattan intersections. For those who aren’t familiar, this entails designating a pedestrian only signal phase where all vehicles are given a red light, and pedestrians are free to cross in any direction, even diagonally, without conflict.

  3. The core issue with bike lanes is that they slow down the transit buses. Slower buses causes longer trips for passengers, overcrowding at bus stops, and bus bunching. In order to maintain proper headways to avoid overcrowding, transit agencies are forced to add a bus to the route. Which can cost $250K annually or the elimination of a local bus route.

    If the goal of the street is to facilitate the flow of people along a corridor, then transit buses with 40+ passengers should be given priority over single occupancy bicycles lanes.

  4. Why aren’t pedestrian crossings located at a signalized location mid-block? This would eliminate pedestrian crossing – turning vehicle conflicts.

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