pedestrian safety Manhattan

Making Manhattan’s Streets Safer

A look at traffic and pedestrian safety in New York City

Staying safe on the road (whether you’re driving one of our Manhattan rental cars or not!) can often be a challenging undertaking. Busy intersections, distracted drivers, and preoccupied pedestrians can make for a perilous commute. According to statistics, pedestrian crashes are one of the leading causes of injury and/or death in the city. in fact, 52 percent of all pedestrian deaths can be attributed to traffic accidents. What’s more, four times as many pedestrians are injured or killed per square mile in Manhattan than the city’s other boroughs.

Luckily, the City of New York has taken a number of precautions in order to improve street safety. From innovative crosswalk markings to designated pedestrian areas, driving in Manhattan doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be involved in an accident. Here are just a few of the ways that the NYCDOT is working to make the roads safer in New York City.

1. Creative Crosswalks

One of the easiest and least expensive ways a city can improve conditions for pedestrians and drivers is to improve the visibility and prominence of crosswalks on high-volume streets. In the case of New York, this involves not just zebra striping crosswalks, but also including eye-catching LOOK! stencils on the pavement. Part of a $1 million pedestrian safety campaign, this new curbside signage is designed to catch the eye of cellphone users who are glancing down to review their messages. In 2010, more than 9,000 pedestrians were injured and 41 were killed when they failed to look up before crossing a busy New York street.

The new signage, which is based on a similar initiative from London, England, warns walkers to look right before stepping into the intersection.

2. Pedestrian Refuge Islands

Pedestrian refuges, or ‘islands’ as they’re often called, help protect people from Manhattan rental cars as they wait to cross a busy intersection. Designed to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, these installations create islands in the middle of a street, enabling pedestrians to stand and wait while traffic continues to move.

Pedestrian refuges provide two main benefits: first, they provide a place for people to wait for mid-street, and second, they force turning vehicles to slow down and make a safer 90-degree angle turn. Two relatively new pedestrian refuges can be found in the city’s West End at West 61st Street (south crosswalk) and West 66th Street (north crosswalk).

3. Creating ‘Neckdowns’ at Busy Intersections

Extending the street corner one parking space size (also known as building a ‘neckdown’) can significantly enhance pedestrian safety. This is because neckdowns reduce the space between curbs and provide pedestrians with better views of oncoming Manhattan rental cars.

Three new neckdowns have been installed as part of recent improvement. Travelers in Manhattan rental cars can find these at:

  • West End Avenue and West 75th Street (northwest corner)
  • Amsterdam Avenue and West 66th Street (southwest corner)
  • Central Park West and West 72 Street (northwest corner)

There are currently 13 additional locations up for neckdown consideration on the Upper West Side. These projects are currently under consideration for NYCDOT funding, at which point they will be scheduled for installation. These include:

  • Central Park West and West 62nd Street
  • Central Park West and West 65th Street
  • Central Park West and West 72nd Street
  • Central Park West and West 79th Street (both sides)
  • Central Park West and West 81st Street (both sides)
  • Broadway and West 65th Street (both sides)
  • Broadway and West 71st Street
  • Broadway and West 79th Street
  • Amsterdam Avenue and West 79th Street (both sides)

4. Pedestrian Priority Signals

Prioritizing pedestrians at intersections provides walkers, especially senior citizens, children and people with strollers, additional time to ascend and descend the curb. This is achieved by using an al red light phase during which traffic is stopped in all directions. Without a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) pedestrians see a walk signal at the same time as drivers in Manhattan rental cars see a green light. Since both movements occur simultaneously, there is a much greater opportunity for accidents to occur.

Most LPI signals are measured based on the size of an intersection. This is normally calculated by measuring the distance from the curb to the centerline, then dividing that number by the amount of time allotted to a pedestrian for each linear foot of movement. Thus a street that’s 60 feet wide would have a centerline at 30 feet. At a walking rate of roughly three or four feet per second, the LPI should be set between seven and ten seconds.

5. Slower Signal Timing

A number of signal locations throughout the city have been changed in order to better accommodate the real rate at which people walk. This program is focused primarily around the area that is bounded by West 81st Street and Central Park West to 60th Street and West End Avenue. The changes will give pedestrians an additional five seconds to cross the street before drivers in Manhattan rental cars receive the green signal.

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