For years, local officials and advocates have called on New York State to do something about its appalling record on pedestrian and bicycling safety. This past budget season, state lawmakers came close to actually dedicating state funding for complete streets, but ultimately failed to vote on the proposed legislation.
Finally, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) have responded, boldly.
On Tuesday, the governor announced a $110 million, five-year pedestrian safety initiative, accompanied by the first-ever New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. Findings of the plan included some insightful data:
- More than 23,700 pedestrians were hit by drivers between 2009 and 2013;
- 61 percent of the contributing factors to those crashes were related to the driver, while 37 percent were related to the pedestrian;
- The economic cost resulting from these crashes was approximately $5.82 billion over the five-year period
($1.16 billion annually).
The action plan identifies 20 priority areas throughout the state–excluding New York City–which account for nearly half of all crashes that take place outside of the five boroughs, and aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent by 2021.
According to NYSDOT, the $110 million is in addition to the $27 million annual federal “STP Setaside” (formerly the Transportation Alternatives Program). The funding will be spent on the “three E’s” to improve safety—engineering, education and enforcement.
Notably, the plan will consider the presence of transit near crash sites, a crucial element given the high rate of fatalities within a half-mile of transit stations. The initiative also promises to beef up crash data collection. Bicycling safety, however, was inexplicably omitted from the plan, despite the increasing number of communities trying to implement bike facilities onto their streets. Further, despite the fact that the 2016 NYS Highway Safety Strategic Plan identified speeding as a focus point of concern, speed as a contributing factor to crashes was not sufficiently discussed in the action plan:
While the crash data were helpful in describing general statistics and trends in pedestrian crashes some of the critical elements that describe risk were incomplete or not available. For example, factors such as pedestrian signing, pavement markings, presence of transit, etc. were not described in the crash data, but were considered critical to describing conditions that affect risk. Other elements such as speed were only partially available.
Also missing from the plan was any mention of automated enforcement as a possible safety tool.
While there’s still room for improvement, this plan (along with its promised funding) is a significant step forward for New York, and Governor Cuomo and Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll deserve credit for stepping up to protect the vast number of New Yorkers who walk and bike every day.