Can State Communities, Mayors’ Challenge and Vision Zero Diminish Pedestrian Fatalities?

Although it sounds like an exigent circumstance for a big city that’s notorious for car, bike, and pedestrian accidents, New York mayor Bill de Blasio has made it his goal to end pedestrian fatalities.

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De Blasiore ferred to vehicle-pedestrian accidents as a city-wide “epidemic,” and with 11 auto accident deaths including 7 pedestrians back in 2014, it doesn’t seem as if he’s just being hyperbolic. According to the GHSA report,
2016 year had about 6K pedestrian fatalities and this is the highest
rate in last two decades. Reportedly five states New York, Texas,
California, Georgia, Florida had >100 pedestrian deaths on an
average. Ten states comparatively had fewer numbers (<10) including
Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Surprisingly 42% of all
incidents occurred in four states and NYC is one of them (rest three
are CA, FL and TX).

Credit: Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State 2016 PRELIMINARY DATA

It’s clear that something needs to be done, and the mayor certainly seems to be taking a step in the right direction. Pedestrian accident attorney, Anthony White says,
“His initiative includes dedicating more police officers to catching
drivers who speed or fail to yield to pedestrians, creating more zones
with reduced speed limits in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic, and
making fundamental design changes to the 50 most dangerous streets and
intersections in the city.”

“Vision ZERO”: Fewest Fatalities Ever

Back in 2014, New York City Mayor, “Bill de Blasio” created a program aimed to reduce traffic fatalities up-to 50% by 2025. The program was launched on January 14 in New York City inspired by the similar program (and by the same name) in Sweden. “No loss of life on our streets is acceptable”, said the Mayor.

Safer People, Safer Streets Challenge

Back in 2015 January, DOT challenged communities to join the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets effort for raising the bar for cyclist and pedestrian safety. The challenge is based on this policy. Elected officials get involved by leading a CTA and organizing a local action team to advance safety objective be accepting activities outlined here.

“I’m Walking Here”: Protecting Pedestrians in the Big City

Large metropolitan areas like New York City have always posed certain dangers to pedestrians. Cars often disregard areas that are designated for pedestrian traffic, such as crosswalks and bike lanes. In fact, a study actually found that New York pedestrians are in the greatest danger when they’re in a crosswalk—the area where they’re supposed to cross the street!

Heavy traffic leads drivers to take risks in an attempt to get where they’re going on time, and New York cabs have a particularly bad reputation for disregarding—and sometimes even maiming or killing—pedestrians. The city’s busiest corridors are the most dangerous, and many accidents occur simply because a cab or other vehicle tried to make a turn or ran a red light while pedestrians had the right of way.

There are several fundamental changes that need to take place in order to make cities like New York safer for pedestrians: First, pedestrians need to be extra vigilant about checking for traffic before crossing the street. Second, drivers need greater deterrents to keep them from speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians. And third, the design of certain areas needs to be changed in order to create greater separation between vehicles and foot traffic. Mayor de Blasio’s initiative is targeting those second two areas, and hopefully, his efforts will be enough to reach his goal of zero pedestrian fatalities.

Can New York Changes Model Good Behavior for Other Areas?

When you think of cars hitting pedestrians, the close quarters and built-up nature of New York City is probably what you imagine. And it would seem like the changes they’re making now carry over quite well to a similarly designed city like San Francisco. But what about the state named “most dangerous for pedestrians” a few years ago? A place with major metropolitan areas very different from New York or San Francisco? What is this deathtrap? Florida. The Sunshine State.

Although we hear a lot about pedestrian accidents in New York City, the Big Apple is actually relatively pedestrian-friendly compared to Florida, which is home to the four worst regions for pedestrian fatalities (Orlando-Kissimee, Tampa-st.Petersburg-Clear water, Jacksonville, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach). These areas are dangerous for a number of reasons, including a car-centric culture, high-speed limits (that drivers often surpass), and not nearly enough sidewalks or crosswalks. Because the state has rapidly expanded, our cities have largely been designed for vehicle traffic—not pedestrians—in mind.

Of course, rapid expansion and a car-obsessed culture shouldn’t be acceptable excuses for a high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. There’s no good excuse for pedestrians being injured or killed by drivers on a regular basis. All dangerous areas of the country need to start making the same kind of changes that de Blasio is calling for: greater enforcement of the speed limit, penalties for vehicles that fail to yield to pedestrians (even when no one is injured), and the addition of pedestrian walkways.

Only time will tell whether New York City’s new traffic regulations are enough to curb pedestrian accidents, but other lawmakers shouldn’t just sit around and wait for the data to come out a few years from now. Far too many pedestrians just don’t have the time.

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