TSTC to Cuomo: Complete Streets Save Lives

A map of New York-area pedestrian fatalities. Because so many people in the region walk, pedestrian safety measures can prevent a large number of deaths and injuries. Image: Transportation for America

Despite streets that remain far too dangerous for walking — 3,485 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes during the past decade in the New York metro area alone — efforts to pass a complete streets bill are still stalled in the state legislature.

The legislation, which would require all street projects that receive state and federal funding to accommodate the needs of everyone who uses the street, has passed the Senate Transportation Committee but hasn’t even been introduced in the Assembly yet. With less than a month left in the legislative session, a complete streets bill is going to need powerful supporters to clear the Albany gauntlet.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is urging complete streets supporters to go straight to the top: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

One of the most powerful letters to the governor comes from Sandy Vega. Vega’s daughter Brittany was killed last year while crossing Long Island’s Sunrise Highway, the second-deadliest road in the New York region. She wrote:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I need your help. New York State needs a Complete Streets law, now, and I am requesting your support and advocacy to make sure this bill is passed before the legislature goes home.

New York has some of the most dangerous roads in the nation, and it is time to stop the carnage. In the fall of 2010, my daughter, Brittany Vega, a 14-year-old walking to school on Long Island, was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road. This particular road, Sunrise Highway, is a 6-lane, arterial road that bisects the central business and residential areas of our hometown in Wantagh. With no count-down clock, there was no way Brittany could tell how long she had to get across. With no pedestrian island in the roadway, she had no safe refuge. She made a guess, and it cost her life.

Complete Streets design principles assure that when roads are built or redesigned, they take into account the needs of all users of the roads, not just cars. Simple changes in road design—such as count-down clocks, better crosswalks, protected bike lanes, and traffic calming devices—can dramatically reduce the number of fatalities on our roads. Complete Streets are safe streets: streets that encourage economic development and assure our seniors can stay in their homes and walk to services, and that our children can make it safely to school. Complete Streets are also environmental streets—providing people with transportation choices that can help to cut down on the congestion and smog that are impacting our health and climate.

Following your lead, in March, advocates for the bill met with those who were concerned that it was an “unfunded mandate.” Both sides were able to come to an agreement and shake hands over new language that everyone was comfortable with. That new bill has been introduced in the Senate, with bi-partisan support, and is moving. However, it is my understanding that the Assembly is waiting for comments from your office before moving the bill in the Assembly.

I urge you to support and find a way to help pass the State Complete Streets bill (S5411) so that our future roads take into account the needs of all users—including users like my daughter.

Sincerely,

Sandi Vega