Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

New York City Department of Transportation – Safe Streets for Seniors Program

Also available for download (PDF, 1MB)

To view PDF files, you need the Acrobat® Reader®.

New York City Department of Transportation - Safe Streets for Seniors Program

Challenge-High rate of pedestrian traffic fatalities among older adults

Using maps to identify clusters of various types of crashes, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) found that older adults represented a disproportionate share of pedestrian fatalities in the city. Although those over 65 years of age make up only 12 percent of the population in New York City, they account for 36 percent of pedestrian fatalities according to an NYCDOT analysis. According to New York City demographic projections, as the baby boomer generation ages, the city's older adult population is expected to grow to 16 percent of the population in 2030, compared to 11 percent in 2010. Without action, the number of pedestrian fatalities involving older adults could continue to grow among this vulnerable population.

Solution-Focus on the conditions that contribute to pedestrian crashes involving older adults

In response to these troubling statistics, NYCDOT's safety group created the Safe Streets for Seniors program in 2008 and began reviewing crash data and police reports to identify potential infrastructure or operational problems at the crash sites. The program is part of a larger suite of NYCDOT pedestrian and bicycle safety programs focusing on Safe Routes to School, high crash corridors, and automobile speeding in neighborhoods. Safety analysts in NYCDOT's Office of Research, Implementation, and Safety used historical data and site observations to identify the following prime factors that contribute to pedestrian crashes involving older adults:

Shortened crossing and planted median at Bowery and Canal Street intersection

Shortened crossing and planted
median at Bowery and
Canal Street intersection

NYCDOT then conducted statistical analyses to help map and better understand traffic fatalities and serious injuries involving older adults, leading to the identification of 25 geographic focus areas for special attention. Through a detailed safety audit, NYCDOT identified and developed a set of infrastructure and operational strategies tailored to older adults:

Adjust signal timing and install countdown signals to accommodate slower walking speeds and give pedestrians more information at crosswalks

Implement road diets to reduce speeding and create more predictable vehicular movements

Install pedestrian safety islands and build curb extensions to shorten crossing distance and slow turning cars

Currently, NYCDOT has completed improvements in 17 of the 25 focus areas, with the remaining eight being finalized. Infrastructure improvements include:

Funding-Supporting the Initiative

NYCDOT supports the Safe Streets for Seniors program through a variety of funding programs from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), including the New Freedom Program, the Highway Safety Improvement Program, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. Through a partnership with FTA and FHWA, NYCDOT constructs safety projects in-house through an expedited construction process under a public interest finding. This enables a quick response to safety needs soon after they are identified using Federal funding, and also lowers the cost of implementation as compared to hiring a contractor.

The graphic depicts Safe Streets for Seniors Program projects across New York City in the context of high pedestrian crash locations, senior pedestrian focus areas, and open space and outdoor recreation areas. The graphic shows safety improvement in five different project areas: Allerton Avenue in Pelham Gardens (28% decrease in all crashes with injuries, 11% decrease in all crashes); Bowne Street in Flushing (23% decrease in pedestrian injuries, 43% decrease in all injuries); Rutgers Slip in the Lower East Side (42% decrease in all crashes with injuries, 60% decrease in all injuries); Hylan/Dew Dorp (22% decrease in pedestrian injuries, 11% decrease in all crashes); and Fort Hamilton Parkway in Borough Park (10% decrease in all crashes).

Results of the Safe Streets for Seniors

Results-Improved Safety for Older Adults and All Users

The initial results are very positive. Older adult pedestrian fatalities decreased 17 percent citywide between 2008 and 2012. At individual project locations, as seen in the graphic to the right, injuries and crashes for all age groups declined considerably in the focus areas. At some locations, NYCDOT observed an over 10 percent decrease in crashes, 20-60 percent reduction in injuries.

The next phase of the program involves 12 new senior pedestrian focus areas identified based on trip generation data from senior transit pass swipes on Metro buses and proximity to senior centers and senior housing. NYCDOT is currently performing outreach in the 12 new areas, soliciting community feedback and analyzing data for safety improvements.

NYCDOT credits continual communication with and feedback from the city's older adult community, in addition to sound technical analysis, for the success of the Safe Streets for Seniors program. The city's Department for Aging is an important partner in these outreach efforts, working with those most impacted by this serious issue to identify hazardous areas and consult on intersection improvement design ideas. Other important partners include: AARP, New York Academy of Medicine, and NYDOT's CityBench program

Updated: 10/20/2015
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000