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Testimony of Ya-Ting Liu
New York City Council Committee on Aging and Transportation’s Joint Oversight Hearing on Status of Pedestrian Safety for Seniors

December 3, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Ya-Ting Liu, federal advocate of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for a more balanced and equitable regional transportation network. I am here today to share with you our analysis of pedestrian safety for seniors in New York City and our recommendations on how we can make our streets even safer for pedestrians of all ages.

In New York City, one in three traffic deaths are pedestrians and seniors make up a disproportionately large percentage of these pedestrian fatalities. People aged 65 or older make up 11.5% of the population in New York City but 31.9% of pedestrian fatalities. The pedestrian fatality rate for seniors in the New York City metro area is 4 times higher than everyone else and is far higher than the rest of the country. Below are pedestrian fatality rates for people aged 65 years or older by borough:

Why are seniors who walk on our city streets more at risk? The higher fatality rate for older pedestrians can probably be attributed to four factors: 1) older pedestrians are less likely to survive a collision with a car or truck; 2) higher proportion of older residents may have “retired” their car keys and are walking instead; 3) older pedestrians are less able to get out of the way of oncoming vehicles in their path; 4) existing pedestrian infrastructure, such as the duration of crosswalk signals, ignores the needs of older walkers.

Tri-State applauds New York City Department of Transportation for its innovative Safe Streets for Seniors program which identifies locations with high numbers of older pedestrian fatalities and makes necessary improvements to improve safety conditions such as:

In order to improve senior pedestrian safety, we urge City Council members to support:

We need New York City Council’s support to encourage Governor Paterson and state legislators to make pedestrian safety a priority. We need a statewide complete streets policy and we need New York State to better leverage available federal transportation dollars to programs that make biking and walking safer in our city and state.

Ya-Ting Liu
Federal Advocate
Tri-State Transportation Campaign