2008-02-01 / Community

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Sets 'Safe Streets For Seniors'

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan and Department for the Aging Commissioner Edwin Méndez- Santiago have launched "Safe Streets for Seniors," a major new pedestrian safety initiative for older New Yorkers, which will work in conjunction with the new All Ages Project that's re-envisioning what it means to grow older in New York City.

The Mayor also released final 2007 traffic fatality data showing that traffic fatalities in New York City dropped to the lowest level since records started being kept in 1910: 271 traffic fatalities citywide, down more than 30% since 2001. There were also an all-time low 136 pedestrian deaths last year- 13% fewer than previous lows in both 2004 and 2005.

Today's announcement took place in Brighton Beach, on a block that houses a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community and that is already receiving traffic safety upgrades. Joining the Mayor and Commissioners Sadik- Khan and Mendez-Santiago was Councilman Dominic Recchia.

"Making our streets safe is a priority on all fronts, whether we're continuing to provide the NYPD the resources they need to fight crime, or using the latest technology and innovative programs to reduce traffic fatalities," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We consider safer streets for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers a matter of public health - like smoking or obesity - that deserves our full attention. And while the final 2007 traffic fatality statistics were nothing short of incredible, we will continue to find new ways to bring them down even more."

"We work every day to make our city's streets as safe as they can be, and with the number of fatalities in New York at its lowest level in a century, we are moving in the right direction," said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "Our 'Safe Streets for Seniors' program is the largest program of its kind ever undertaken in the nation, and it's appropriate that it targets the most vulnerable New Yorkers throughout neighborhoods in all five boroughs."

"Today's effort will not only assure that New York City remains one of the most age-friendly cities in the country, it will also serve to reduce senior fatalities at busy intersections across the five boroughs," said Department for the Aging Commissioner Méndez- Santiago. "We know that by 2030 the population of older New Yorkers will be larger than the number of schoolaged children so it is critical that we begin to prepare for these changes by looking at our infrastructure needs across the spectrum."

Since 1990, pedestrian fatalities in New York City have decreased by 62%, but senior citizens remain a particularly vulnerable group. A study of pedestrian fatalities from 2002 to 2006 showed that senior citizens- those 65 and over- made up about 12% of the City's population but were involved in nearly 39% of the City's fatal pedestrian accidents. Because New York City's senior population is expected to increase significantly in the next 25 years, Department of Transportation engineers have already examined accident histories across the city and identified 25 city neighborhoods that have both a high density of senior citizens and a high number of pedestrian accidents or injuries, looking at variables like visibility, lighting, drivers' compliance with traffic and pedestrian signals and the width of the roadway. As part of the Safe Streets for Seniors program, engineers will evaluate pedestrian conditions in these neighborhoods from a senior's perspective and make engineering changes such as extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks and shortening crossing distances, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways

The Mayor's announcement took place in Brighton Beach, where the City has already retimed lights and pedestrian signals along key roads including Brighton Beach Avenue, Coney Island Avenue, Neptune Beach Avenue and Ocean Parkway. The Department of Transportation also plans to refurbish signage in the area and to add "No U-Turn" and "Yield to Pedestrian" signs on Brighton Beach Avenue between Brighton 1st and Brighton 7th Streets. Longer-term projects in Brighton Beach include improvements to pedestrian islands, curbs and sidewalks, roadway narrowing and reducing the number of travel lanes, moving stop bars further away from crosswalks and additional senior outreach.

Similar work will soon follow in the four other neighborhoods, including: Manhattan, Lower East Side; Bronx, Fordham/University Heights; Queens, Flushing/Murray Hill, and Staten Island, New Dorp/Hylan Boulevard. Once these five pilot locations are completed the twenty other locations will see similar safety surveys and upgrades.

Over the next 25 years, the number of New Yorkers over 65 is going to nearly double. By 2030, 20% of the city's residents will be seniors - and New York City needs to prepare. In collaboration with the City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine, the All Ages Project announced in the 2008 State of the City Address will determine how best to ready the city for its growing population of seniors, examining everything from housing to meal delivery to transportation to the traffic engineering improvements announced today.

The record-low traffic fatalities announced this week add to the decline in the number and rate of traffic fatalities in New York City since the 1990s, which has outpaced declines seen nationwide. The lower fatality rate has been achieved through a combination of stepped up enforcement of traffic laws by the NYPD - focusing on drunken driving, speeding and seatbelt use; improved driver behavior and vehicle safety, such as the widespread use of seatbelts and air-bags, and DOT outreach efforts through programs like Safety City, which have educated tens of thousands of children and seniors.

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