Vision Zero: DOT Announces Plan for Older Adult Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian Safety and Older New Yorkers Study identifies design improvements that significantly protect older adults. DOT will install turn-calming treatments at 50 Older Adult targeted intersections annually & expand installation of pedestrian head-start signals.

Vision Zero: DOT Announces Plan for Older Adult Pedestrian Safety

NEW YORK—NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez today announced that the NYC Department of Transportation has released the Pedestrian Safety and Older New Yorkers Study, as well as a series of initiatives that are part of a larger investment to improve overall pedestrian safety at intersections.

The study analyzes key factors contributing to crashes amongst older New Yorkers and put forth commitments to Vision Zero treatments like turn calming, which lower senior pedestrian deaths and serious injuries by up to 60%. The report also identified new Senior Pedestrian Zones to guide future engineering, enforcement and education. DOT will install turn calming treatments at 50 intersections annually and drastically expand pedestrian head-starts (known as Leading Pedestrian Intervals – or LPIs) installations by 2024 within those same zones, along with a host of other commitments to keep older pedestrians safe.

“We recently convinced Albany to allow us to operate our speed cameras 24/7, but we have even more work to do,” said Mayor Eric Adams.  “Because the lives of the oldest New Yorkers are so precious, we are going to also work around the clock to protect them — being relentless in our pursuit of street safety – including safer designs.”

“Crashes do not necessarily occur more often to older pedestrians, but we have found that when they do happen, the crashes are far deadlier,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “That is why we must make the areas around senior centers even safer, building safer streets that are inclusive to all New Yorkers — but especially those who are most vulnerable.  Data is always at the forefront of our work, and this study allows us to make targeted investments that will save the lives of seniors citywide.”

“As an age-inclusive city that is committed to providing community care for older New Yorkers, protecting our older adults from traffic injuries and traffic deaths is imperative. I would like to thank the Department of Transportation’s leadership for highlighting this important issue and for the target goals outlined in the study that will help improve pedestrian safety,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. 

“New York City’s older adults are active, vibrant and, like all New Yorkers, have the right to be safe when they’re walking around our city” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Physical activity by walking – whether to meet friends and family, to grab a meal, to run errands, or to go to medical appointments – helps everyone stay healthy and improves wellbeing. Thank you to DOT and DFTA for your commitment and work to keep our city’s older adults safe as they move about our city.”

Today’s announcement was held outside the Outside Riverstone Senior Life Center in Washington Heights, a Manhattan neighborhood with a large senior population. Manhattan is also the borough with the highest percentage of older adult pedestrian fatalities Citywide.

In January, the Mayor had committed to safety design improvements this year at 1,000 intersections and expanded enforcement. The report’s release follows successful efforts by New York City to expand DOT’s life-saving speed camera program to 24/7 operation.  The population of New Yorkers aged 65 and older is growing, currently making up about 15% of New York City’s population, but over 45% of pedestrian fatalities. Older adult pedestrians also have worse outcomes if in a crash than compared to other age groups, and have more difficulty scanning different directions of traffic. Older adult pedestrian fatalities are more likely to occur close to home and in the middle of the day.

Left turn failure to yield crashes are nearly twice as deadly for older adults than for younger adults, and account for 35% of older adult pedestrian fatalities.

Senior Pedestrian Zones identified in the study will guide future engineering, enforcement and education. They cover the locations of approximately 30% of citywide older adult fatalities and severe injuries but only 13% of the city’s square mileage. DOT’s data driven commitments include:   

  • Extending LPI crossing times during mid-day in Senior Pedestrian Zones and at new LPI locations by the end of 2024
  • Adding LPIs at all feasible intersections on Priority Corridors in Senior Pedestrian Zones by the end of 2024
  • Creating Senior Turn Calming initiative and installing treatments at 50 Older Adult targeted intersections annually
  • Implementing ten or more Senior Street Improvement Projects annually
  • Targeting Raised Crosswalks to older pedestrians and safety improvements near and at bus stop locations
  • Targeting safety improvements to bus stop locations under elevated trains
  • Targeting Older Adult Education and Outreach to Senior Pedestrian Zones

Other key findings of the study include: 

  • Road diets, bicycle lanes, pedestrian islands, sidewalk expansions, turn calming and leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) all deliver impressive injury reductions for older adults.  LPIs and turn calming treatments reduce older adult pedestrian deaths and serious injuries by 40-60%
  • Crash patterns suggest that older pedestrians use the street very similarly to younger adults
  • More older adults are injured or killed while riding their bike than by being struck by a cyclist
  • Asians are overrepresented in older adult pedestrian fatalities. This is likely due to older

Asian populations being concentrated in denser parts of the city (Manhattan Chinatown,

Sunset Park, Flushing, Jackson Heights) where walking rates are higher and car ownership is lower, leading to increased exposure to traffic.

Larger Commitment to Safer Intersections: Intersections are the leading site of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. This January, Mayor Adams, DOT Commissioner Rodriguez, and NYPD Commissioner Sewell committed to make safety design improvements to 1,000 intersections with improved traffic signals, raised crosswalks, and other expanded pedestrian space and visibility measures.  NYPD has also expanded enforcement against drivers who fail to recognize the primacy of pedestrians in crosswalks and has issued 17,810 Failure to Yield summonses citywide through June 12 of 2022, a 30.4% increase compared with the 13,651 Failure to Yield summonses the department issued in the same period in 2021.

“Earlier this year, I lost a beloved Far Rockaway senior in a horrific hit-and-run accident in a busy intersection; an avoidable death with the proper infrastructure,” said NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. “The Pedestrian Safety and Older New Yorkers Study’s identified key factors such as turn calming and daylighting, initiatives included in the NYC Streets Plan, to curtail vehicular incidents in intersections across New York City. I applaud Commissioner Rodriquez and Mayor Eric Adams for advancing the NYC Streets Plan and implementing infrastructure projects that reinforce safer roadways for the jewels of our communities.”

“The release of the Department of Transportation’s ‘Pedestrian Safety and Older New Yorkers’ Study makes plain what many in our communities already know: our streets are neither safe nor accessible for many of our neighbors, particularly older New Yorkers,” said NYC Council Aging Committee Chair Crystal Hudson. “The study’s findings put forth tangible solutions that will not only make New York more walkable for older adults, but will ultimately serve as a big step forward in our fight against traffic violence across the five boroughs to keep both pedestrians and cyclists safe. I’m eager to continue working with DOT to ensure safe streets and sidewalks are the norm, not the exception.”

“Car crashes happen in an instant but have live-changing repercussions. Too many New Yorkers continue to be struck by dangerous vehicles on our streets and crosswalks. Tragically, our older New Yorkers are often the most vulnerable to traffic violence,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu. “This year, we even saw a 99-year-old holocaust survivor struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. We know that investing in safe infrastructure is one of the most effective long-term solutions to reducing these tragedies. I want to thank Commissioner Rodriguez and Mayor Adams for studying this issue and introducing initiatives that will improve street safety for all New Yorkers.

“One of the things that makes New York City great is its walkability. But for too long, the city has not done enough to make our streets safe for older adults.  That changes today, thanks to Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez and their Vision Zero plan for older residents,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Older New Yorkers deserve safer streets, and now they will get them.”

“Older New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by traffic violence and the City of New York must do everything in its power to protect them on our streets” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris. “The safety improvements announced by DOT today will help save lives and must be paired with comprehensive street redesigns — the gold standard for reaching Vision Zero.”

“Keeping older New Yorkers safe from traffic violence must be a priority for our city’s leaders” said Families for Safe Streets Member Irma Rosenblatt, whose 88-year-old mother was killed by a speeding SUV driver in 2014. “Crossing the street should not be a life-or-death endeavor but it often is for those who are most vulnerable. Today’s announcement from DOT to invest in safe streets improvements will help keep all New Yorkers safe especially older New Yorkers.”

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