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LI group takes design for pedestrian safety to the street

Deputy NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Russo,

Deputy NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Russo, left, with Vision Long Island director Eric Alexander at the Complete Streets Summit in East Farmingdale on Thursday, March 31, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

A New York City planner on Thursday outlined for a Long Island group the strategies Mayor Bill de Blasio has used in a bid to curb pedestrian traffic deaths in the city — including better street design and public education.

“We can design fatalities out of the system,” Deputy NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Russo said at the Complete Streets Summit meeting in East Farmingdale.

Russo told the assembled civic groups, elected officials, transit advocates and others at the Molloy College branch in East Farmingdale that it took enforcement and education as well as street design to make streets safer for pedestrians.

The complete streets movement seeks to change how streets are designed with more than the traditional automobile user in mind.

Among other things, complete streets advocates push to make sure bus stops are near crosswalks, that bicycle racks are provided at train stations and that traffic islands are created on wide streets to provide a safe area for pedestrians.

This year’s summit touched on bicycling safety, remarks from transit and automobile groups and a presentation from an engineering firm that showed how planners can use video game technology to bring outsiders into the design process.

Russo, the keynote speaker, took the group through a slideshow about de Blasio’s Vision Zero program, announced shortly after he took office in 2014.

Pedestrian deaths dipped slightly, from 139 in 2014 to 134 in 2015, according to city statistics.

There were 22 pedestrian fatalities in Nassau and 31 in Suffolk in 2014, according to the website of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Russo said that seniors were about 12 percent of the New York City population and growing, but accounted for 30 percent of the pedestrian fatalities last year.

He said the city has deployed about 140 speed cameras, conducted extensive outreach and education, and gotten police to focus on problem areas, such as pedestrians getting hit at intersections by turning traffic.

“When you come into our city, please yield to the pedestrians,” he said.

Event organizer Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit regional smart-growth planning group, thanked Russo for making the trip out to the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College.

“Are we jealous?” Alexander said to the audience of about 100 people, referring to the city’s strategies. “A little bit. Right?”

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