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COVID-19 Prompts NYC to Open Some Streets to Pedestrians

Social distancing in New York City amid the COVID-19 pandemic is changing traffic patterns as pedestrians take to the streets to avoid sidewalks filled with people who may be carrying the easily transmittable disease. Some NYC roads close to allow pedestrians more space.

New York City’s social distancing rules require people to stay at least 6 feet away from each other, which in normal times would be nearly impossible on a NYC sidewalk. New York leads the nation in the number of cases of the highly contagious coronavirus. New Yorkers who can’t stay at home are stepping off the curb and into the street to maintain a safe distance from other pedestrians. Failing to properly social distance could result in a fine, as well.

The problem is that for New York pedestrians to maintain 6 to 10 feet of space between themselves and others, some have resorted to walking in bike lanes and traffic lanes. They run the risk of a being hit by a vehicle and seriously injured, which compounds problems for them – as well as for the city’s overworked emergency medical service (EMS) crews and inundated hospitals.

One potential solution to the city’s lack of room for social distancing is to close some streets to vehicular traffic and open them for pedestrians only. This was suggested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and taken up by Mayor Bill de Blasio. It is similar to what the city already does with Summer Streets each August.

NYC Opening Streets to Pedestrian Traffic

Starting on March 27, NYC opened up four stretches of city streets to pedestrian traffic:

  • Park Avenue between 28th and 34th streets in Manhattan
  • Bushwick Avenue between Flushing and Johnson avenues in Brooklyn
  • Grand Concourse between East Burnside Avenue and 184th Street the Bronx
  • 34th Avenue between 73rd and 80th streets in Queens.

The four locations amount to just 1.6 miles of road space, says Curbed New York in a call for more streets to be set aside for pedestrians.

In normal times, pedestrians account for about half of motor vehicle accident fatalities in New York City. Pedestrians are 10 times more likely to die in an accident than occupants of motor vehicles, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.

Vehicular traffic is down dramatically because nonessential workers have been told to stay home to avoid catching the coronavirus. But the rush-hour traffic that remains is moving 36 percent faster than normal, the New York Times reports.

Increased speed translates to less time for drivers to brake to avoid pedestrian accidents. Speed means greater force-of-impact if a vehicle hits a pedestrian walking in the street.

NYC Pedestrians Know New York’s Crowded Sidewalks

Unfortunately, crowded New York City sidewalks forcing pedestrians into the streets didn’t arrive with the coronavirus.

“While crowding is hardly a new problem in the city, the sidewalks that cemented New York’s reputation as a world-class walking city have become obstacle courses as more people than ever live and work in the city…” The New York Times said in a 2016 report. The sidewalks of Manhattan are especially congested, it said.

“Veteran pedestrians have tried to adapt,” The Times said. “They shoulder their way into bike lanes or walk purposefully on the street alongside cars — eyes ahead, earphones in — forming a de facto express lane.”

When the New York City Department of Transportation studied pedestrian safety, it found that pedestrians accounted for 52% of traffic fatalities over a five-year period. Four times as many pedestrians are killed or severely injured in Manhattan per mile compared to the other four boroughs.

Also note:

  • Driver inattention (distracted driving) was cited in nearly 36% of crashes resulting in pedestrians killed or seriously injured.
  • 27% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved drivers failing to yield right of way.
  • Pedestrian-vehicle crashes involving unsafe speeds are twice as deadly as other crashes.
  • 80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers.
  • 79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve private vehicles, not taxis, trucks or buses.
  • Serious pedestrian crashes are about two-thirds deadlier on major street corridors than on smaller local streets.

Drivers and pedestrians share responsibility for safety on city streets. By law, drivers are to exercise care to avoid hitting pedestrians. Pedestrians are to avoid suddenly stepping off a curb into the path of an oncoming vehicle when the vehicle is too close to stop safely. Pedestrians are required to obey all traffic signals and to cross intersections only in designated crosswalks.

How Our Law Firm Helps Victims of Crowded NYC Sidewalks

Regardless of the volume of traffic on sidewalks or city streets, if a driver broke traffic laws or drove carelessly or recklessly, he or she may be held legally liable for a pedestrian accident. A pedestrian who has been hit and seriously injured by a car or truck should consult with a NYC pedestrian accident lawyer about whether a claim is appropriate. Legal action may be in order if the pedestrian did not cause the accident. By pursuing a personal injury claim, an injured pedestrian may seek compensation for medical bills, wages lost while injured, and pain and suffering.

In New York City, the pedestrian accident attorneys at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., help injured individuals and their families seek compensation when someone else was at fault for the accident that injured them. Our attorneys are skilled at investigating and evaluating traffic accident claims and have a track record of getting results.

New York law allows pedestrians who were hurt in accidents to take legal action against the person, or other party(s) responsible for their injuries and seek to make things right. An experienced New York City accident lawyer at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., can protect your legal rights and demand full compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation about how we can help you, including virtual consultations.

David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care. He wanted to help everyday folks who have had the misfortune to be injured in an accident.

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