Case Studies

New York: Safe Routes for Seniors

As more people live longer and age in place, creating communities that are easy, enjoyable, and safe for older adults to walk through is crucial for both transportation and public-health considerations. So, in 2003, Transportation Alternatives (TA), a New York City–based transportation advocacy organization, created a Safe Routes to Seniors program. With funding from the New York State Department of Health’s Healthy Heart program, TA partnered with community groups in eight neighborhoods that had large senior populations to better understand obstacles to walking. Senior residents documented dangerous walking conditions using maps, measuring wheels, stop watches, and disposable cameras. TA also hosted four workshops to give seniors a chance to generate design solutions. TA’s work helped construct 65 pedestrian safety improvements to improve walking conditions for over 26,000 seniors in two New York City neighborhoods.

The TA program also inspired the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) to create its own Safe Routes for Seniors program. NYCDOT’s program examined accident histories across the city to identify 25 neighborhoods that have both a high density of senior citizens and a high number of pedestrian accidents or injuries— including the TA-identified neighborhoods of Flushing, the Lower East Side, and Brighton Beach. The agency’s engineers assess pedestrian conditions in those neighborhoods from a senior’s perspective to implement improvements, such as extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks, shortening crossing distances, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.