Group aims to curb traffic accidents, deaths on city streets

A pedistrian crosses Queens Boulevard as traffic moves A pedistrian crosses Queens Boulevard as traffic moves along in Rego Park. (Dec. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

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Fewer people in New York City are being injured in traffic accidents, but some in the city are making dangerous streets a No. 1 target.

A coalition organized by Transportation Alternatives marched along Queens Boulevard Saturday to bring attention to a string of recent deaths along the street, after Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens held a summit Thursday to look at ways to help bring down traffic accidents and fatalities.

Through October, 126 pedestrians have been killed by drivers, according to Transportation Alternatives. In 2012, there were 277 total traffic fatalities, including pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.

Dr. Jamie Ullman, director of neurosurgery at Elmhurst Hospital Center and an organizer of Thursday's summit, said traffic fatalities and injuries have been rising for years, and her hospital in the last three years has reached two record highs for patients coming in with traffic-related injuries.

"It's not a problem that's going away," Ullman said.

Ullman said that, for the most part, the city has done well in trying to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Since 2002, traffic fatalities have dropped nearly 30 percent, according to the city Department of Transportation.

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"New York's streets over the past six years are the safest they have been since record keeping began in 1910," said DOT spokesman Scott Gastel. The department "has launched some of the most innovative safety programs in the nation," he said.

Gastel noted the 137 corridors and 113 intersections the city has re-engineered in the last five years; 4,500 new pedestrian countdown signals; 910 speed bumps; installation of or planning of 29 neighborhood slow zones; and installation of speed zones near 146 schools in the last six years.

Miller Nuttle, campaigns director with Transportation Alternatives, agreed that the city has taken major steps toward making the streets and sidewalks safer, but that New York is far from being as safe as it should be.

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"But even one accident or injury is unacceptable," he said.

Nuttle said that in addition to more driver and pedestrian education, the city -- and the incoming Bill de Blasio administration -- should focus resources on the further re-engineering of streets to protect walkers, such as installing additional speed cameras and developing more dedicated bike and bus lanes.

De Blasio has laid out his Vision Zero plan, through which he hopes to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within 10 years.

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