On Monday October 3, 2022, our Executive Director Justin Booth went to Albany to join other members of the NYS Safe Streets Coalition to speak directly to the NY Assembly Transportation Coalition on the importance of constructing Complete Streets.
In June 2022, the Assembly and Senate passed three bills we had lobbied for over the previous year. One bill required greater education about yielding to and sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians on DMV tests. Governor Hochul signed it into law right away. Another bill allowed municipalities to drop their speed limit as low as 25mph without needing permission from the state. Governor Hochul signed it into law right away.
The final bill, and the one we fought the hardest for, was also passed through both chambers and would increase state funding from 80% to 87.5% to municipalities who reconstructed their streets and roads to Complete Streets standards. This would make it more possible for cash-strapped villages, towns and cities statewide to afford to make their streets safer.
Since June, this bill has not yet been signed by Governor Hochul. So NYS Safe Streets Coalition reconvened to join the Assembly in pushing for the bill to go forward into law.
Watch Justin’s portion of the day here, or you can read the remarks in their entirety below. Thanks for your concern and your advocacy!
NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation
Monday, October 3, 2022
Executive Director, GObike Buffalo
Chair, City of Buffalo Common Council’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board
- Complete Streets are designed and meant to be operated to enable safe access for all roadway users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists regardless of age or ability.
- Yet, when 72% of all trips in the United States less than a mile are driven (2010 Future of Transportation National Survey, T4America) there are negative consequences for people in our communities.
- 1 in 3 children in NYS are considered overweight and obese. Largly due to a lack of safe places to walk or bike, which significantly limits opportunities for healthy, physical activity. According to a 2011 NYS Comptroller report, this is costing the state $327 million annually in direct and indirect medical costs. For adults, this jumps to $11.8 billion annually.
- When a 1-mile walk takes approximately 15 minutes and the surgeon general recommends a minimum of 30 minutes a day to maintain health, designing safe complete streets is a simple way for people to be healthier as part of their daily routines like walking to school, or to the market.
- In fact, the NYS Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program specifically funds organizations around NYS to work with communities on developing complete street policies and projects because it is an evidence-based mechanism to improve community health.
- Complete Streets are also an equity issue for low-income households. According to AAA, the average annual cost of car ownership is $10,728 in 2022, which is up from $9,282 in 2019 and expected to continue to rise.
- With the median household income in Buffalo, NY $39,677 and 28% of the population living in poverty (2021 Census), the cost of owning and operating a vehicle is a barrier to access basic needs, jobs, and future opportunities.
- In NYS, (NYSDEC 2021) the transportation sector represents 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change. This could easily be reduced through complete streets by simply converting the 72% of all trips under a mile made in a vehicle, to a walking or cycling trip instead.
- Between 2017 and 2021, New York State Department of Transportation recorded 121,807 reported automobile-involved crashes or an average of 67 crashes per day in Erie and Niagara counties with 64 people dying each year.
- Despite being involved in a far smaller proportion of total crashes (2.9%), one in four fatal crashes resulted in the death of a person walking or bicycling (25.7%).
- The New York State Department of Health recognizes traffic deaths and injuries as a major preventable public health problem. In fact, crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death, second leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and third leading cause for injury-related emergency department visits in New York State.
- The resulting care needed presents a significant public cost, with combined hospitalization and emergency department charges averaging $1.1 billion, annually.
- Implementing Complete Streets is essential to making our roadways safe. While some may think that a key attribute are sidewalks and bicycle lanes, it is actually to slow vehicle speeds because we know that if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling at 40mph they have a 15% chance of survival, while at 20mph the survival rate is 95%.
- A model case study is the Village of Hamburg in Erie County, NY just south of the City of Buffalo:
- With a population (2010) of just under 10,000, it had been in decline following the collapse of the steel industry and opening of a nearby mall.
- In 2001, NYSDOT proposed improvements on Route 62, a state roadway, which would add a vehicle travel lane and shorten sidewalks along the village’s 1-mile-long main street.
- Concerned locals formed a citizen’s group and developed a design alternative which was implemented in 2009 that narrowed existing travel lanes from 12-10 ft to reduce speeds and enabled them to add street trees, on-street parking, and bike lanes.
- Signalized intersections were removed in favor of roundabouts.
- Mid-block crosswalks were added along with curb extensions at intersections.
- Between completion in 2009 and 2013, vehicle crashes on the street fell 66% and injuries fell 60%.
- Since this public investment in Complete Streets was made, business owners, inspired by the new road, spent a total of $7 million on 33 building projects in the 4 years after construction.
- The number of building permits rose from 15 in 2005 to 96 in 2010 and property values along Route 62 more than doubled over the same period.
- The Village of Hamburg should not be the exception to the rule, but the model for all projects to follow.
- As chair of the City of Buffalo Common Council’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory board, I have the opportunity to review and provide recommendations on all thoroughfare plans developed by the City of Buffalo.
- Since being the first city in NYS to adopt a complete streets policy in 2008, implementation has relied primarily on maintenance projects.
- When a street is being re-paved the City of Buffalo has recognized that it is the most cost effective opportunity, by simply adding some additional paint, to slow vehicle speeds, improve pedestrian access and add bicycle facilities.
- Recent data from NYC DOT published in Governing Magazine has shown simple changes such as road diets (converting a 4 lane street to a 3 lane one), bicycle lanes, curb extensions and turn calming can reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our streets from 15% – 30%.
- While the unprecedented COVID pandemic upended many aspects of daily life, including how people get around, one terrible, long-term trend was unchanged: the alarming increase in people being struck and killed while walking, which is at a 40 year high, disproportionately impacting older adults and those living in low-income communities of color. (2022, Smart Growth America, Dangerous By Design)
- According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Code of Ethics, engineers first and foremost, must protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. If this is the case, then our traffic engineers are failing us.
- It is essential that complete streets are applied to all projects, that additional funding is provided to local municpalities and they are implemented in a context sensitive manner to equitably improve the safety, health and economic vitality of our communities.
- It is no longer appropriate, nor morally acceptable, to solely focus on vehicle efficiency on our roadways when we have the tools and cost effective measures to improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of age or ability, in NYS.