Which Road Safety Interventions Work Best?

Data from New York City show that traffic safety projects that give pedestrians the most space are the most effective in reducing fatal crashes and injuries.

2 minute read

September 19, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

New York City Pedestrians

Pedestrians in New York City. | Drop of Light / Shutterstock

“New data published by the New York City Department of Transportation adds to a growing body of evidence about which interventions most effectively reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries.” In an article for Governing, Jared Brey describes the projects that had the biggest effect on street safety.

“The data show substantial reductions in serious injuries and fatalities for all roadway users resulting from street improvement projects like road diets, pedestrian islands, curb and sidewalk extensions, and leading pedestrian intervals — all on the order of 30 percent or more.” Brey adds that turn calming and protected bike lanes also had an impact of 15 percent of more.

The study, originally undertaken to analyze the effect of interventions on senior citizens, was broadened to include all road users. Brey notes that “Injury data specifically for cyclists were not included in the study, though a separate 2021 report looked at the impact of street interventions on risks for bikers.”

According to the study, projects that give pedestrians more space show the best results. “Another important takeaway was that conventional bike lanes, which involve little more than paint, did result in significantly fewer deaths and serious injuries.” While protected bike lanes help more, all designated bike lanes seem to have some effect on reducing dangerous crashes.

According to Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America and vice president of transportation and thriving communities for Smart Growth America, New York City should serve as a model for planning, implementing, and then studying the results of traffic calming projects. “The tragedy is NYC DOT is a standout. We almost never check on what state DOTs or city DOTs promise.”

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