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BREAKOUT SESSION #5: Safe Streets for All: Accessibility, Design, and Enforcement

Kate Slevin of Tri-State Transportation Campaign kicked off the session by noting the improvements made for pedestrians in the last four years, including longer walk times at crosswalks, raised crossings, and public plazas. In addition, the passage of the Complete Streets Act now mandates that DOT projects take into consideration the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and the disabled. Juan Martinez of Transportation Alternatives said that more people are killed on streets than from gun violence, despite the media silence on the issue. The DOT seeks to reduce fatalities by 50% by 2030, but in a City where 70% of fatalities are caused by drivers illegal activity, DOT cannot do it alone. Indeed, Harbachan Singh of Queens Civic Congress urged better education for pedestrians, bikers, and drivers alike. Ryan Russo of NYC DOT shared statistics with the group, including the fact that over 700 pedestrians per year were killed on City streets in the 1930s and the number is down to around 150 per year over the last decade. The ongoing fatalities occur mainly on large, two-way boulevards, which account for just 12% of the Citys streets, but see 47% of the fatalities. Moreover, seniors are disproportionately represented among the victims 38% of fatalities despite being only 12% of the Citys population. DOT has expanded its Safe Routes to Schools campaign and expanded the number of red light cameras on City streets (thanks to legislation passed in Albany). However, the Department continues to encounter obstacles, including budget shortfalls and community opposition to changing the streetscape. Nevertheless, Russo urged community members to work with Community Boards to install speed bumps on dangerous roads and Martinez called on people to support expanded speed cameras. Ken Stewart of the Metropolitan Council for Low Vision Individuals described his walk to the conference and how the obstacles he faced could

be easily solved with low cost solutions such as: detectable warning strips to signal an approach to an intersection and the installation of more accessible traffic signals (including audible signals). Stewart also criticized the high cost of Access-a-Ride, saying that seniors often take it because they feel unsafe walking. All of the panelists urged New Yorkers to get involved in their Community Boards and other civic organizations that organize to pressure elected officials for improved transit and accessible streets. When an audience member asked about the potential to license bicycles, Juan Martinez responded that it is more important to change behavior and educate people about the rules of the road than it is to construct a complicated licensing regime. An audience member mentioned that she was creating a website (www.nyccaraccident.net) where bikers hit by cars could go to learn their rights and report accidents. Russo responded to concerns from audience members about Manhattancentric improvements by stating that the DOT is focusing on high-density neighborhoods for seniors first. He also told audience members that they can request speed humps and other traffic calming devices for their neighborhood via the DOT website. TAKEAWAY: While traffic/pedestrian fatalities have plunged in recent years, more can be done to ensure that the streets and sidewalks of the five boroughs remain safe and accessible to all. Some plans require Albanys assistance, such as the expansion of red light cameras or the introduction of speed cameras. Other solutions, such as detectable warning strips need the curb or audible walk signals, can be unilaterally executed by NYC DOT. Regardless of what solutions are chosen, it is critical for all to be involved in Community Boards and civic organizations that pressure elected officials and City agencies for reform.