Pedestrians, Bicyclists Account for More Than 1 in 4 Traffic Deaths in New York and New Jersey

Photo: Dylan Passmore | FlickrPhoto: Dylan Passmore | Flickr

Last week, the Alliance for Biking & Walking released its 2016 Benchmarking Report tracking states’ and large cities’ progress on biking and walking. Recently, the tri-state region has made some noteworthy steps towards safer streets for all users, but the report goes to show there’s plenty of room for improvement.

New York has the highest combined share of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities of statewide traffic deaths: 24 percent of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians, while 3 percent were bicyclists. Considering the lack of state dollars dedicated to creating safe walking and biking conditions, maybe that isn’t all too surprising. Nearly five years after Governor Cuomo signed the New York State Complete Streets Law, New York still lacks both a spending target and a dedicated revenue source for bike-ped projects.

Last month, 45 state legislators called on the Assembly and Senate to include a $20 million line item for bike-ped infrastructure in the state’s transportation budget–a modest ask that amounts to less than a half a percent of NYSDOT’s $22.1 billion five-year capital plan. If that $20 million figure sounds familiar, it should: TSTC and fellow advocates asked the governor for the same amount last year and the year before, but so far it has yet to be included in the budget.

New Jersey was a close second in its share pedestrian and bicyclist traffic fatalities: 23 percent of all road deaths were pedestrians, and 2 percent were bicyclists. Unlike New York, the Garden State has a dedicated revenue stream for things like sidewalks and bike lanes, but it spends the fourth least per capita of any state on bike-ped projects. It also doesn’t help that the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is running on empty and the buying power of a stagnant state gas tax shrinks with inflation each year.

There are some signs of hope in the state legislature — bills establishing a safe passing law and a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Council are awaiting full votes  in the Assembly — but without funding for safe walking and biking infrastructure, the impact of these laws may not be fully realized.

Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities represent a considerably lower share of overall traffic deaths in Connecticut (13 percent pedestrians, 2 percent bicyclists). The state deserves credit for its active Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board as well as the recent passage of a vulnerable user law and bicycle law reform. Connecticut cities, too, have taken steps toward improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians: Stamford recently recruited a planner from the New York City Department of Transportation to lead its new transportation bureau, Hartford passed a new zoning code that emphasizes sustainable transportation, and new dedicated bicycle facilities are coming to New Haven.

But perhaps the main reason pedestrians and bicyclists account for a smaller share of overall traffic fatalities is because driving dominates in the Nutmeg State. Fewer than one in 10 commuters bike, walk or use transit in Connecticut. Even in Metro Hartford, 81 percent of commuters drive alone to work — higher than the national average.

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