StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Intersections, Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety

On Tuesday this week, we testified at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's oversight hearing on intersections, sidewalks and pedestrian safety. We voiced our support for a bill that would mandate that the city improve paved medians with plantings or other stormwater-retaining infrastructure, and another that would require that the city's news racks be better managed. We offered qualified support for several pieces of legislation, including bills that would decriminalize "jaywalking," improve sidewalk lighting, and require study of a number of types of physical safety treatments in or around intersections.

We also expressed opposition to two proposed bills that appear intended to hamstring certain types of street-safety projects and changes to curbside uses. 

Our full testimony follows below.

Pedestrian safety, especially at intersections and on sidewalks, is a critical issue, as even in 2023, a relatively “safe” year, more than 100 New Yorkers were killed by drivers while walking, with many of those fatalities occurring in or near crosswalks. And while last year saw some of the lowest totals for pedestrian deaths on record, it was an unusually deadly year for people on bikes, with many of those fatalities happening in or near intersections.

The bottom line is that we need to do better as a city in protecting vulnerable street users. We need to continue slowing and calming vehicular traffic, which the passage of Sammy’s Law earlier this year should help. We need to continue investing in street designs that improve safety, including getting the city on track to meet the benchmarks set by the Streets Plan, adhering to state law that mandates daylighting at intersections, and making additional investments in lifesaving infrastructure like curb extensions, bollards, concrete pedestrian refuges, and hardened protected bike lanes.

All these steps, and many more, are necessary if Vision Zero is ever going to be more than a slogan. As the North American city with the best public transit system and one of the most robust cycling networks, we must continue to get people out of cars, make walking and biking safe, and put preserving lives above all else.

Int. 0746-2024 – Support

We support Int. 0746, which would require the city to improve paved medians by planting vegetation or adding stormwater management infrastructure. The city should certainly do more to increase greenery, reduce heat-island effects, and minimize runoff, but we also need to make sure that we’re providing the Parks Department with sufficient resources to install and maintain plantings.

Int. 0663-2024 – Support

While we support free speech and understand its implications regarding news, there’s no reason that in 2024, New York City can’t better regulate newsracks. With sidewalk space at a premium in the city, newsracks should be orderly and well maintained.

Int. 0346-2024 – Support with Qualification

We support Int. 0346, which would decriminalize “jaywalking,” a construct of the advent of the motoring age that was intended to promote the hegemony of the automobile, with qualification. It’s often safer for pedestrians to cross streets mid-block, away from the turning movements that so often are the cause of injury and death, and the existing prohibition on crossing outside of crosswalks is not applied remotely equitably, with the vast majority of “jaywalking” tickets issued to people of color. However, we have concern with the language in the bill that “advises” pedestrians to yield when crossing mid-block, rather than a requirement to yield, which would likely reduce unsafe conflict.

Int. 0079-2024 – Support in Concept

We support the motivation behind Int. 0079, which would require installation of pedestrian lighting fixtures to better illuminate sidewalks in commercial corridors. Subpar lighting is a safety hazard, and the city should be taking steps to ensure that heavily traveled commercial streets are well lit, but we’re unsure of the lighting levels required by the legislation, or the extent of the need.

Int. 0095-2024 – Support in Concept

As with some of the other bills being heard today, we certainly support the motivation behind Int. 0095, which would require NYCDOT to study the feasibility of installing raised crosswalks, raised intersections, and other speed-reducers adjacent to schools. Rather than require a study, however, we believe this is something that the city should just do, and we would encourage Council Members to submit to DOT prioritized locations for this type of traffic-calming infrastructure.

Int. 0144-2024 – Support in Concept

We certainly support the implementation of bollards as a measure to improve pedestrian safety, an area in which New York, which tends to use bollards to protect buildings more than humans, lags many peer cities around the globe. We do have questions about the extent of reporting requirements, however, since we believe it’s clear that bollards do effectively protect pedestrians, and in general, we’d like to see the Department of Transportation be able to focus resources on doing rather than reporting.

Int. 0301-2024 – Support in Concept

The Federal Highway Administration reports that flashing beacons have definitive safety benefits, reducing pedestrian crashes by up to 47% and yielding rates by up to 98%, so we don’t believe that a study of their efficacy is especially necessary. If there are intersections at which NYCDOT feels the use of these devices is appropriate, they should install them, and Council Members should certainly identify and share priority locations with the department.

Int. 0745-2024 – Recommend Negotiation

While we support the motivation behind Int. 0745, which would require NYCDOT to produce an annual study of bicycling activity, we believe that much of the data the bill seeks is already produced and reported on by the department. In any instances in which the desired data is lacking, we would encourage the Council to consult and negotiate with NYCDOT to ensure that such information is included, rather than to do so through new legislation.

Ints. 0103-2024 and 0104-2024 – Oppose

We oppose both Int. 0103, which would require NYCDOT to notify Council Members and Community Boards 15 days before removing a parking space, even temporarily, and Int. 0104, which would require NYCDOT to notify individual firehouses in advance of approving Open Street applications or implementing bike lane projects. Both bills are nakedly intended to hamstring the use of the city’s streets for anything other than free parking and driving. There is no good reason to require notification of the removal of parking spaces, and DOT already consults with the Fire Department regarding street changes. Individual firehouse personnel do not have the expertise to evaluate the effect that street changes might have on response times. We strongly urge the Committee to reject this legislation.

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published this page in News 2024-06-29 15:32:58 -0400
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