Older adults, those age 65 and above, currently represent 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities in New York City. This issue will become increasingly more critical as the city’s older adult population continues to expand – reaching 1.35 million by 2030. This report was produced by Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) as a result of an important research effort intended to identify dangerous intersections, streets, and walking zones and transform these areas into places that are safe, accessible, and enjoyable for older pedestrians. To collect information for this report, T.A. researched Manhattan senior demographics, coordinated senior focus groups, and studied pedestrian databases. This report specifically examines walking conditions in Lower East Manhattan neighborhoods.
The World Health Organization and National Institute on Aging promote the thesis of “active aging.” That is, walking, biking, and other regular outdoor activity is a preventative measure that keeps seniors in good health and decreases the risk of depression that comes with isolation, lack of mobility, and being afraid of the dangers of the outside world such as crossing the street.
For this report, T.A. visited five senior centers in Lower East Manhattan and surveyed seniors about the local routes and intersections they found to be most dangerous and difficult to navigate. In total, 118 seniors attended the workshops and focus groups and 43 completed the survey in its entirety. However, 75 percent of all participants provided some kind of feedback. According to the survey results, the primary issues facing older pedestrian in Lower East Manhattan include limited street crossing time, speeding drivers, not enough dedicated bike lanes, cars and police vehicles parked in bus stops, and uneven pavement on sidewalks.
Additionally, this report provides recommendations for Departments of Transportation that may lead to improve pedestrian conditions for older adults. These recommendations include:
- Research geographic trends in senior pedestrian injuries and fatalities
- Focus on residence-based improvements to street design within measurable radii around areas where large senior populations live and walk
- Develop senior pedestrian zones and increase street crossing times
- Create design solutions for senior pedestrian improvement areas
- Work more closely with public health and aging organizations, and with community representatives
How to Use
Street safety improvements for senior pedestrians are improvements for all pedestrians. Community planners, neighborhood designers, transportation agencies, and local officials should use this report to gain insight from Transportation Alternatives and the organizations recommendations for improving senior pedestrian safety in New York City. Though the recommendations provided in this report relate to streets in Lower East Manhattan, the principles can be used to improve streets in communities across the country.