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The Most Dangerous Streets In NYC For Pedestrians

Plus, what NYC is doing to make streets safer.

New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced a new interactive component to the city’s Vision Zero website at a symposium on traffic safety in Brooklyn Friday morning. Vision Zero, a concept pioneered in Sweden and adopted earlier this year as New York City policy, is all about redesigning streets and traffic patterns with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities to zero.

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At a Vision Zero symposium sponsored by the nonprofit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Trottenberg introduced Vision Zero View, a new interactive web tool that maps every traffic injury and fatality in the city and details the city’s efforts to redesign the streets for safety. It visualizes the most dangerous streets–and individual intersections–for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers throughout the city.

“It’s incredibly granular data on fatalities, where we’ve done educational outreach,” and the kinds of street design interventions the city’s department of transportation is working on, Trottenberg said.

The website features four different ways to visually track Vision Zero’s progress in New York City. The map be viewed through the lens of traffic crashes, street design, outreach efforts, and the rate of fatalities and injuries in precincts and community districts of different sizes and populations. Within each of those tabs, you can filter the data by different boroughs.


Looking at crashes, you can filter the results (which show up as dots on the map) by injuries and fatalities, by month and by year, and by pedestrian, cyclist, or car incidents, providing an incredibly detailed look at the state of traffic safety in the city. A sliding timeline at the bottom of the graphic allows you to examine statistics for different months and years between 2009 and 2014. Clicking on the dots that represent crashes–orange for injuries, red for fatalities–lets you to see the number of and type incidents at particular intersection.

Looking at just pedestrian injuries in the city as a whole, the graphic becomes a sort of heat map for pedestrian danger zones. Downtown Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan show up dark orange for 2014, representing a greater density of pedestrian injuries for that year. But the map paints a bit of a dim picture of pedestrian safety in the city over the years represented, especially at intersections with north-south running avenues in Manhattan, which tend to be wider, one-way streets with heavy traffic compared to cross-town streets. But there are injuries in all the boroughs, basically anywhere a lot of people walk–one reason the city’s new default speed limit has been lowered to 25 mph, a speed at which traffic crashes are far less likely to kill pedestrians or cyclists (an even slower speed limit has become the model for traffic safety in Europe).


On a more positive note for the city, the “street design” tab allows you to explore what kind initiatives the Department of Transportation is undertaking as of October 29 of this year–streets that have become arterial slow zones, regions that have become neighborhood slow zones, sites of major safety projects, and where leading pedestrian intervals have been introduced. (Alas, you can’t overlay the traffic fatality data on the street design map to see how the initiatives match up spatially.)

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According to Trottenberg, more data maps are forthcoming, though they’re not ready to be released just yet. “We pledged as part of Vision Zero to put out borough-wide safety plans,” she said. The city’s Vision Zero public input map–where the public could report places where there isn’t enough time to cross the street, poor visibility, failure to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and more–yielded plenty of data for the Department of Transportation to examine as it plans to revamp city streets. “We got 13,000 clicks on the website,” Trottenberg reported.

But there have been discrepancies between what people reported as unsafe and what the city’s data shows. “We basically heat mapped it,” Trottenberg said, looking at KSIs (Killed or Seriously Injured, a metric of road safety). “If you take the maps of Brooklyn where people clicked, and you match it with the heat maps [of KSIs], it doesn’t match.” People in affluent neighborhoods were much more likely to use the website, but less affluent neighborhoods tended to have greater hotspots for fatalities, revealing a greater need for public outreach in those areas.

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About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut

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