The war between cars and pedestrians has raged since the first motorized vehicle found its way to our streets. Before that, roads were not simply the domain of horses and buggies. They were shared with people who either chose, or had no other option, than to simply walk.
As cars got faster and more common, pedestrians were pushed to the side. Sidewalks started to spring up in most urban areas, which made the trek easier, so long as you weren’t trying to get on the other side of the road.
In 2015, some 125,000 pedestrians and cyclists were injured in the United States, according to the most recent figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not counting the 6,400 who were killed.
In New York City that same year, 131 pedestrians were killed, representing 2.82 deaths per 100,000 people. Compared to other larger cities, only seven of the 170 others performed better than New York.
Yet, pedestrians account for more than 54 percent of all traffic deaths in New York City. Those 170 other cities in the report? Only 10 had numbers above 50 percent, and that includes Oxnard, California, which had just one fatality in 2015.
Vehicles come with a number of safety features to protect drivers and passengers in an accident. But pedestrians have nothing more than luck and maybe the grace of God. When it comes to Car vs. Pedestrian, it’s silly not to expect the metal tank to defeat flesh and bone each time.
This is why Broadway between West 242nd Street and Yonkers is so important. During a four-year period along that stretch, 10 pedestrians were seriously injured or killed, according to the city transportation department.
At its widest, Broadway is a six-lane road — already a daunting task for pedestrians hoping to cross it. But because of its semitractor-trailer-friendly past, some sections of Broadway along this stretch is 100 feet wide. That’s room enough for 10 lanes. Getting across all those lanes requires the speed of Tiki Barber in his prime.
Our roads were never intended to be the sole domain of motorized vehicles. Instead, they were built for everyone. And while pedestrians should share the roads, so should drivers.
The city transportation department wants to make major changes to Broadway that will not only slow traffic, but create a more pedestrian-friendly space. That means shrinking parking spaces to fit just a single vehicle, adding bus lanes and safer bus stops, and possibly even narrowing travel lanes as a way to induce more manageable speeds.
These are changes generally celebrated by pedestrians, but not drivers. And if the past is any indicator, the advantage once again lies with drivers — who tend to be wealthier and hold more clout.
Change is never easy, and no one will ever be truly happy with how that stretch of Broadway evolves. But what’s there now isn’t working, and a cease-fire in the war between cars and pedestrians would be a great start to finding a solution.