Walking is an important form of transportation in New York City, but those on the city’s sidewalks are not necessarily headed to work or school. Older residents also take advantage of the walkability of their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, according to the New York City Department for the Aging, although seniors make up just 12 percent of the city’s population, they account for 36 percent of the pedestrian fatalities.
In 2008, the New York City Department of Transportation began a program known as Safe Streets for Seniors, which aims to reduce pedestrian hazards for older walkers in the city. Since 2013, the Department of Transportation has taken several steps to address issues that many seniors face, reducing the number of accidents drastically at each intersection where they have added safety features.
One problem older adults often experience is a lack of adequate time to cross. Now, new signals count down the amount of time that is left for safe crossing and allow people to add time if necessary. Pedestrian safety islands have also been placed in the centers of wider intersections where a complete crossing may be difficult to accomplish for those who are unable to walk briskly.
Safety islands have also been used to address another common problem for seniors and other pedestrians. Often, negligent drivers turning right fail to yield to those crossing the streets. To remedy this, the city has added turning lanes that are separated from other lanes by an island. This allows pedestrians to cross in front of those waiting to turn, then wait safely on the other side until the rest of the intersection is safe to cross.
The implementation of these and other improvements has significantly reduced pedestrian fatalities in the areas where they have been put into place. The city plans to continue to improve safety for pedestrians using these features, as well as providing information to those in vehicles and on foot to raise awareness of the hazards and reduce collisions.