By Adrian Duyzer
Published May 23, 2012
Controversy has erupted in a New York City neighbourhood over a plan to turn two streets that are currently two-way into one-way streets.
Department of Transportation (DOT) Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia claims this move is to improve pedestrian safety, but a copy of the report acquired by StreetsBlog.org shows that the plan "is almost entirely concerned with the movement and flow of motor vehicles and the calculation of 'vehicular level of service'". (Sound familiar?)
StreetsBlog.org reports that at a community presentation, Primeggia failed to back up his claims of increased safety with any specific examples, simply saying that, "I know two-way streets are less safe."
But one Park Slope resident, who is a professional transportation planner and traffic engineer and a member of the federal Transportation Research Board, came prepared to refute Primeggia's claims. Unfortunately, he was unable to deliver his presentation because the meeting was cut short, but was able to provide it to StreetsBlog.org. Here is a copy of his planned testimony.
The proposal under consideration here this evening may have merit in terms of moving traffic through Brooklyn as a whole. However, in terms of serving Park Slope, this project is ill-conceived and you would be ill-advised to endorse such a plan.
I'll focus on just one aspect of the plan -- the significant negative impact it can have on some of Park Slope's most precious but vulnerable citizens, that is, our small children. With PS 321, the magnet school that was PS 10, PS 39, PS 282 and various middle schools, private and parochial schools, more than 3,000 children use Sixth and Seventh Avenues daily to walk to and from school.
One-way street networks can result in more pedestrian accidents, particularly among children. This effect has been noted in a number of transportation studies published in respected academic journals. I'll cite and quote certain relevant reports and articles for your consideration:
First, from a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Public Health:
"Children 5-9 have the highest population-based injury rate in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents." Why? As the report goes on, "because in many pedestrian crashes the driver reportedly does not see the pedestrian before the accident. Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with a greater likelihood of crashes involving pedestrians as well as more serious pedestrian injuries... In residential settings with large numbers of children, speed management appears to offer the greatest potential for injury prevention."
By way of explaining this effect, I'll refer to two other reports. First from a 2004 report published in the Journal of the Institute of Engineers regarding one-way streets:
"Superficially, it would seem that crossing traffic on a one-way street is preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, crossing a one-way street presents greater difficulties to the pedestrian than crossing two-way streets... One of the inherent disadvantages with one-way streets is that they force additional turning movements at the intersections...[and] increase the occurrences of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts at any given intersection."
Second, from a paper presented at the federal Transportation Research Board's 1999 Urban Streets Symposium:
"In traffic engineering circles, the operational disadvantages associated with one-way streets are becoming increasingly recognized. The system...[causes] an increase in the number of turning movements and total miles of travel. One-way streets present challenges to the pedestrian due to speed and pedestrian expectations at intersections... there are simply more (typically 30-40 percent) more vehicle/pedestrian conflicts within a one-way street network than in a comparable two-way system."
Conversion to one-way avenues may well result in more traffic volume, higher speeds, more turning movements on Sixth and Seventh avenues. Where does this all lead?
Well, from the Canadian Journal of Public Health, a 2000 study conducted in Hamilton, Ontario, found that:"Children's injury rate was 2.5 times higher on one-way streets than on two-way streets" in Hamilton. Conclusion: "One-way streets have higher rates of child pedestrian injuries than two-way streets in this community."
Given this evidence, it's clear that two-way streets are better for kids, with a decreased rate of injury and death. They're also better for business. They're more useful and usable than one-way streets. We proved they worked when we converted James and John. All the experts keep telling us to drop our one-way system.
So what are we waiting for?