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Funding cut from 'Complete Streets' promise to cut bike accidents

In 2012, New York found itself at the top of an unfortunate list: it was named the No. 1 city in the nation for fatal pedestrian and bike accidents. Fully 27 percent of people killed on New York roads were pedestrians or bikers, and New York State Department of Transportation data shows that nearly eight walkers or bikers are struck by vehicles each and every day in our state.

Luckily, New York’s “Complete Streets” law went into effect that same year. Complete Streets laws are the result of a nationwide initiative by a coalition of safety groups seeking to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians, bikers and transit riders. The idea is that all communities should provide safe access to everyone using the infrastructure -- pedestrians, bikers, transit riders and motorists of all ages and abilities.

Complete Streets laws require state transportation agencies to direct transportation engineers and city planners to consider and implement designs to protect all of those group. Those designs include items like bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides of every street, bus stops removed from traffic, and safer, more frequent road crossings for pedestrians.

No specific design is required -- the particulars are left up to the DOT and communities. Unfortunately, according to the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, NYSDOT’s recent draft of its statewide transportation improvement program actually reduces the funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes and pedestrian islands by fully 40 percent.

The agency’s proposed 2014-2017 budget cuts more than $100 million from pedestrian and bicycling safety programs compared to the 2011-2014 plan, the group’s analysis found.

“New York should be topping the charts on investments to make its streets safe to walk and bike, not working to zero it out,” said the group’s executive director.

While safety advocates have been asking NYSDOT to invest more in preventing pedestrian and bicycle accidents since Complete Streets was passed, the only part of the state where money has been allocated specifically for these programs is Region 1, the Albany area. Even though NYSDOT publically highlighted its commitment to pedestrian safety on Long Island’s Hempstead Turnpike, the agency plans to spend 24 percent less in that region.

The fact is, we need to work harder on preventing pedestrian and bicycle accidents in New York City and throughout the state. In the meantime, be careful out there!

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