By Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN — Manhattan's streets are the most dangerous for pedestrians, even as the number of fatalities from car crashes has dropped citywide, city officials said in a new report.
The borough has the highest number of fatalities per square mile, with nine out of 12 community boards reporting between 7.5-14.9 pedestrian deaths per square mile between 2005 and 2009, according to a recent Department of Health study. That comes to a total of approximately 200 pedestrian deaths over the study's five year span, according to the data.
Community Board 1, at the tip of Manhattan, has the lowest number of fatalities (not including Central Park), with less than 2.5 pedestrian deaths per square mile between 2005 and 2009, the study reported.
However, the city’s traffic fatality rate is only one quarter the national average and has declined 64 percent since 1990, according to the study. Still, injuries and deaths from traffic accidents are reportedly a leading cause of hospitalization for child and senior-aged pedestrians.
Vehicles barreling down streets is the leading cause of traffic fatalities, accounting for 322 deaths from 2005-2008, according to the DOH.
"Speeding is a huge problem in New York City," said Transportation Alternatives spokeswoman Kim Martineau. "Let’s remember the speed limit is 30 miler per hour, which on some streets is too fast. This is a problem we could fix tomorrow through better enforcement."
Martineau said her organization has been pushing a law to use cameras to enforce speeding regulations where accidents are the most prevalent.
Transportation Alternatives also recently mapped out the most dangerous intersections in the Lower East Side. The intersection of Delancey and Essex streets ranked the worst, with 119 crashes between 2008 and 2009.
Popular community activist, Harry Weider, 57, was killed last April after being struck by a cab while crossing Essex Street between East Houston and Stanton streets.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of pedestrian fatalities occurred at intersections, the DOH reported.
"Although New York enjoys a good safety record, there is always room for improvement," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in a statement. "The Police Department’s enforcement focuses on those illegal practices that kill: drunken driving, speeding and inattentiveness linked to hand-held phone calls and texting.”
Manhattan is also not helped by having a large number of high-traffic streets.
Major road arteries comprised 57 percent of traffic fatalities.
Besides speeding, other major contributors were driver inattention, failure to yield and alcohol/drug use, the DOH reported.
While bicyclists made up only 7 percent of traffic fatalities, there have been a number of recent deaths that Manhattan communities have pointed toward in calling for more bike lanes.
Musician Bob Bowen was killed in a hit-and-run accident in September after being struck by a truck at Second Avenue and 59th Street.
Second Avenue was slated to get a bike lane from Houston to 125th Street, but the plan had been stalled, according to a spokeswoman for Time's Up, a not-for-profit environmental group.
More than bike lanes, alleviating traffic accidents relies primarily on the city cracking down on dangerous drivers, stressed Martineau.
"People are really used to their not being much speed enforcement," she said. "This is really an epidemic."