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Making Streets Safer for Seniors

Transportation Alternatives' Safe Routes for Seniors campaign started in 2003 to encourage senior citizens to walk more by improving their pedestrian environment. Funded by the New York State Department of Health's Healthy Heart program, this was the first program of its kind to address the needs of elderly pedestrians.

In 2008, the City of New York launched its own Safe Streets for Seniors initiative based on TAs Safe Routes for Seniors. Focusing on 25 areas with high senior pedestrian fatalities, this program is paving new ground. Yet, some including seniors not in these zones are asking, is it enough? Stats released by Transportation Alternatives show that:

  • People aged 65 years and older make up 12% of the population, yet they comprised 39% of New York City's pedestrian fatalities between 2002 and 2006.
  • The fatality rate of senior pedestrians is 40 times greater than that of child pedestrians in Manhattan.

This video is an overview of what Transportation Alternatives, New York State Department of Health, NYC DOT, community groups, and elected officials are doing to promote safe streets for seniors.

<blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Speaker:</cite> We need the street signs. We need the stop signs. Seniors need to be able to cross at 139th. They need to be able to cross at Madison Avenue and 135th. And we have a lot of seniors who cannot come to the center simply because they can't get by those intersections. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [0:23] Safe Routes for Seniors is a program between Transportation Alternatives and the New York State Department of Health. It looks at street conditions throughout the City of New York to see how those conditions can be improved to encourage walking and enhance cardiovascular health for senior citizens. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Amy Jesaitis:</cite> [0:45] We address seniors because if you're addressing seniors' needs you're really addressing everyone's needs. Because if you're looking at light timing and how much time they have to cross the street, that's going to help someone that's blind. That's going to help someone that's in a wheelchair. That's going to help someone who's toting a child. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [0:59] The program actually started out of TA's Safe Route to School program which was a program that started in the Bronx back in the late 1990s. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Amy Jesaitis:</cite> [1:07] We need to keep seniors healthy. We need to keep them in their own homes. We need to keep them active, and the best way to do that is have them walking. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [1:14] The idea behind this program was to have the seniors themselves tell us where they had trouble crossing so we didn't have to rely only on traffic statistics. We went out and did the analysis based on what they told us. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_4_text"> <cite class="speaker_4" >Speaker:</cite> [1:27] It's easier for us to cross on a square corner than it is to cross on some of these triangle corners because you find that it's too long. We are too slow a walkers. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_5_text"> <cite class="speaker_5" >Stephanie Pinder:</cite> [1:42] We have two seniors, as a matter of fact, who were fatally injured and so the seniors began to get concerned. Amsterdam Avenue is a very broad street. Traffic swerves around trying to get to 66th Street, trying to get to the highway. So, these were areas that they had raised as concerns. We're not traffic experts.We had heard of a group called Transportation Alternatives and contacted Transportation Alternatives to come to a meeting to kind of hear some of the concerns that the seniors have. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_6_text"> <cite class="speaker_6" >Speaker:</cite> [2:07] The cars are just standing over there, but I have a red light. So, it confuses you. Same thing here. I find that this whole area is a very dangerous crossing. [music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_6_text"> <cite class="speaker_6" >Speaker:</cite> [2:31] Yeah, we're stuck in the middle of two lanes of traffic. It's a big intersection. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_7_text"> <cite class="speaker_7" >Josie Piper:</cite> [2:40] All of here are really concerned about our seniors, our seniors that come here daily. We have anywhere from 100 to 150 people coming and going all day. It is really a critical and, I'd say, potentially dangerous area for people to have to walk through the kinds of poor traffic conditions. We need it. We need help. We need services. We need traffic lights. We need street and sidewalk improvements. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_8_text"> <cite class="speaker_8" >Speaker:</cite> [3:16] Everybody said they have to cross in the middle because it's so far for us. Maybe a speed bump somewhere or like I say, the senior caution sign. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_9_text"> <cite class="speaker_9" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [3:27] I think that seniors are happy. There are organizations like Transportation Alternatives that care about their safety. Sharon Asherman: I know that there's been some modifications to the streets in our neighborhoods. Seniors and various senior centers in the neighborhood meet once a week and walked through the neighborhoods. Transportation Alternatives designed the maps for them to walk through the park safely and then back to their senior centers with as few obstacles as possible. [music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_10_text"> <cite class="speaker_10" >Rosie Mendez:</cite> [3:59] We had noticed in Dan's district, Dan Garodnick's District 4, the east side of First Avenue, that there were lots of fatalities. So we worked together to try to institute a couple of measures to make streets safer. Dan got this flower bed put up north of 20th Street to cut off that little side street. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" > Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [4:26] On this side of the street, we have Penn South. It has over 3,000 senior citizens living in it. This street is an example of a street that's overly wide, and this street connects you directly to the West Side Highway. So, you'll get a lot of through traffic.What the Department of Transportation has done here is created a cycle track. It looks like a bicycle facility, but what it does is create a shorter crossing distance so that senior citizens can walk halfway across the street, wait there and then make the final crossing. You have these plastic bollards which aren't necessarily attractive, but it extends the curb out into the street, allowing people that are walking to make eye contact with motor vehicles. [music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_11_text"> <cite class="speaker_11" >Rosie Mendez:</cite> [5:11] One of the other things that I see is important is having these rest stops. So, as people are walking they can sit down on a bench. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [5:21] Finally having the City Department of Transportation pick up this project as their own suggestion, this project will continue. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Anne Marie Dougherty:</cite> [5:29] The city Safe Routes for Seniors program includes 25 senior focus areas. We've started out with five pilot areas in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Flushing and Queens and the lower east side of Manhattan where we've already implemented our safety improvements, such as pedestrian refuge islands. We've done narrowing of roadways to decrease the crossing time. We've also modified the signal timing to accommodate slower walkers. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Amy Pfeiffer:</cite> [5:58] I think the big push that we're seeing, and that we're encouraging now is the complete streets method of doing all land use design so that you'll have the DOT coming together with City Planning, coming together with the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection. So that when you're looking at a new development, you're looking at it from the perspective of health. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_11_text"> <cite class="speaker_11" >Anne Marie Dougherty:</cite> [6:20] We're designing streets with an emphasis on the seniors but also all others. </blockquote> <br/><br/>
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  • http://xingcolumbus.wordpress.com/ John

    I think you mean that Safe Routes for Seniors is based on Safe Routes to Schools.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org/ Elizabeth Press

    Hi John,

    That is true Transportation Alternatives' Safe Routes for Seniors was based on their Safe Routes to School Program as Amy mentions in the video. But, I also meant what I wrote in the text that the City's Safe Streets for Seniors program was modeled off of Transportation Alternatives' Safe Routes for Seniors program.

    I get this information here:

  • brian

    getting seniors in nyc politically mobilized is HUGE. I used to work for a state senator and he told me that almost ALL of the people who voted for him are seniors. Most of the young people just weren't involved in the state senate elections. Especially important given the terrible actions that the NY State legislature has done wrong (no to congestion pricing, failure to bailout MTA)

  • George

    I'm surprised that the seniors in the video were so willing to accept changes.

    My grandmother was knocked down in her neighborhood of the East 80's by a bike that was riding in a bike lane. She is not used to seeing bicycles in her neighborhood where she has lived for the last 40 years. She would say that she hates the bike lanes--not because she thinks its a bad idea--but because she hates change.

    I wonder if the seniors who frequent the senior centers are an unusually proactive and forward thinking crowd. I imagine that my grandmother would rather not have any new modifications done to the intersections because they confuse her.