FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release #08-036
DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan and Councilman Liu announce safe streets for seniors initiative for Flushing, Queens
New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and New York City Council Transportation Committee Chairman John Liu today announced senior safety traffic improvements have been installed in Flushing, Queens as part of the DOT's citywide Safe Streets for Seniors program, which is reengineering streets citywide to reduce traffic accidents for older New Yorkers. Flushing is the second of the program's five pilot neighborhoods to launch improvements, including retiming traffic lights and pedestrian signals, and designing streets to make them safer for seniors to cross.
"Traffic fatalities in New York City are at an all-time low, but we remain ever more vigilant about our most vulnerable New Yorkers-seniors," said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Senior citizens represent only 12% of our population but they are nearly 40 percent of those killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents. The disproportion is alarming, but under our strategic plan, we are recommitted to make improve pedestrian safety."
"Our community has the highest percentage of seniors in Queens and the City's fifth largest population of residents aged 65 and older. That's why I am working proactively with the Transportation Department to develop safer and more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood streets for our seniors. Our parents and grandparents contributed their blood, sweat, and tears to build our country -- the least we can do is ensure they live with the dignity and security they deserve," said Councilman John Liu, Chairperson of the City Council's Transportation Committee, who has been a strong advocate for improving traffic safety conditions for senior citizens and worked closely with DOT on this initiative.
The focus area in Flushing includes several major corridors with boundaries of Northern Boulevard to the north, Sanford Avenue to the south, Main Street to the west and Parsons Boulevard to the east, along with a section of Kissena Boulevard extending to Holly Avenue. Improvements also included the changing of 45 signals in the area to allow more time for seniors to cross at 25 major intersections. DOT also installed sidewalk extensions that align the intersection and shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians on the northeast corner of Parsons Boulevard at Sanford Avenue and on the northwest corner of Kissena Boulevard at Elder Avenue.
At Parsons Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, DOT installed an LPI (leading pedestrian interval), which gives pedestrians a head start in the intersection before vehicles get the green light. Markings along Northern Boulevard were upgraded and some intersections received new high visibility crosswalks. DOT also installed a new signal on Northern Boulevard in the eastbound direction at Linden Place and provided a new pedestrian crosswalk.
Further improvements for the Flushing Safe Streets for Seniors project include the installation of a painted median on Colden Street from Elder Avenue to Franklin Avenue to narrow the roadway and slow traffic. A concrete median tip on Northern Boulevard at Bowne Street was also installed for pedestrian protection. DOT also calmed traffic on Bowne Street by narrowing the road from Sanford Avenue to Northern Boulevard with a channelized median, left turn bays and pedestrian refuge islands. DOT placed these islands at areas where crashes involving senior pedestrians had occurred.
A few more components of the Flushing project await completion. Enhancements at the intersection of Main Street and Kissena Blvd. are expected to be completed by the end of October.
Since 1990, pedestrian fatalities in New York City have decreased by 62%, but senior citizens remain a particularly vulnerable group. A study of pedestrian fatalities from 2002 to 2006 showed that senior citizens-those 65 and over-made up about 12% of the City's population but were involved in nearly 39% of the City's fatal pedestrian accidents. Because New York City's senior population is expected to increase significantly in the next 25 years, DOT examined accident histories across the city and identified 25 city neighborhoods that have both a high density of senior citizens and a high number of pedestrian accidents or injuries, looking at variables like visibility, lighting, drivers' compliance with traffic and pedestrian signals and the width of the roadway.
DOT announced the pilot improvements for Safe Streets for Seniors in January 2008 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, where DOT retimed traffic lights and pedestrian signals, replaced signs replaced and installed improved pedestrian refuge islands to make crossings safer. Roads were narrowed to calm traffic and defective sidewalks and ramps in the area were reconstructed to reduce tripping hazards for seniors.
Three other 2008 pilot areas include the Lower East Side in Manhattan, Fordham/University Heights in the Bronx and New Dorp/Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island. In the longer term, DOT will address an additional 20 Senior Pedestrian Focus Areas citywide.
The DOT will provide an extensive public education program for older adults in conjunction with its study of Flushing streets and every other neighborhood in the Safe Streets for Seniors program. DOT is also taking aggressive strategies in Queens beyond Flushing, including making safety improvements along Parsons and Woodhaven boulevards, creating a step street in Astoria and making traffic calming improvements in Sunnyside.