Brooklyn Pedestrians “Going Green”: How Safe Are They?

By Landon Biehl.

One of the easiest ways to “Go Green” has always been bicycling and walking whenever possible. Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn, in general, are very pedestrian-centric but not always pedestrian-friendly.

Year after year we hear of fellow Brooklyn residents, and even New York tourists, who are injured or killed after being struck by a vehicle while walking.

In March of 2017, Joseph Raineri was crossing an intersection in Greenpoint when he was killed by a passenger vehicle. This tragedy is just one of the many accidents involving pedestrians that occur every year in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and other parts of Brooklyn.

Taking Action

In 2014, when the speed limit was lowered from 30 miles per hour to 25, many New Yorkers were skeptical of the effectiveness of the change. While many remain unsure about the lowered speed limit, the change has helped reduce pedestrian deaths.

According to a new guide that was recently created exclusively for visitors and residents of NYC, all five boroughs saw a drop in pedestrian-related accidents during the first three months of 2015.

Although there were fewer incidents, Brooklyn had the highest number of pedestrian-related accidents, averaging 235 per month in the first quarter of 2015.

Our Role As Pedestrians

While reducing the speed limit was a giant step in the right direction, it’s important for pedestrians of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and other parts of Brooklyn to educate themselves in order to protect themselves.

Here are some ways that “green” pedestrians can stay safer while walking in Brooklyn:

Know The Safest Times To Walk

It may come as no surprise that pedestrian collisions occur when there are more people on the street, and in Brooklyn, that may seem like 24/7. While pedestrian accidents are possible at any time of the day, they are more likely to happen during the afternoon and evening hours of the weekdays and the evening hours of the weekend. Rush hour is a particularly hazardous time in Brooklyn.

Some of the safest times of day to be a pedestrian are between 3 and 6 am during the work week. Although this may be far too early for many, 6 am can be a good time to get some exercise or go for a run in Greenpoint or Williamsburg.

If you do most of your walking during the busy times of day, exercise extra caution or look for alternative modes of “green” transportation.

Who’s Most At Risk?

In Brooklyn, men from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations are more likely to be in a pedestrian-related accident. An effective way to address this issue is to participate in a senior safety program.

Not a male Baby Boomer or Gen Xer? You can be an advocate or do your part to spread awareness. It’s important to remember that even if you’re not a “high-risk” statistic, you are at risk regardless of your age or gender.

Which Type Of Vehicle To Watch

It may be assumed that taxis and commercial vehicles may be the biggest offenders in regards to pedestrian accidents but drivers of station wagons, SUVs, and passenger vehicles are most likely to strike a pedestrian.

Keep in mind that all types of vehicles, including “green” cyclists, may (and have been) be involved in a pedestrian accident, so it’s best to approach each vehicle with caution.

Common Contributing Factors

Pedestrian accidents occur for a number of reasons, but failure to yield right-of-way is one of the top factors. As a pedestrian, it’s your responsibility to know pedestrian rights and duties but you should also be familiar with motorist rules (even if you don’t own or drive a car).

The other top common factor responsible for pedestrian accidents is distracted driving. About 32 percent of accidents involving a pedestrian was due to a distracted motorist, and 7 percent of accidents were related to pedestrian error (which could include a distracted pedestrian).

Your Responsibility As A Pedestrian

As a pedestrian, pay attention to motorists (even if it’s your right of way). Try to make eye contact with a driver before crossing at an intersection and don’t cross if you notice a motorist texting or talking on the phone.

And don’t text and walk at the same time, especially while crossing the street.

Looking both ways before you cross the street is one of the first things we learn as children; this rule still applies today, especially in Brooklyn.

While distractions are all around in Brooklyn, for drivers and pedestrians alike, alcohol still plays a role in pedestrian deaths. Although a small percentage (1%) of Brooklyn pedestrian accidents were due to a motorist using alcohol, one report reveals that pedestrians who are under the influence of alcohol are at risk of being struck by a vehicle and making poor decisions (such as not crossing at an intersection). Nationwide, about 34% of pedestrians who were killed were legally intoxicated.

Alternate Transportation

As a steward of the environment, and a resident of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, there’s probably a good chance that you don’t even own a vehicle (like many fellow New Yorkers). Although transportation options can be limited with the subway and bussing options, it may be a safer option during the busier times of the day.

If a bicycle, subway, or bus don’t work with your schedule, don’t overlook a ride share service. Many ride shares are investing in hybrid or electric cars to help make NY a little greener.

City Wide Involvement For Pedestrian Safety

Although New York lowered the speed limit and there has been some reduction in pedestrian deaths, there’s always room for improvement.

What can you do as a resident of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, or other parts of Brooklyn? Get to know the Vision Zero pedestrian safety plan and start raising awareness in your neighborhood. Become an advocate for pedestrian safety and do your part in educating young and old.

Write your letter of concern to the Mayor’s office and make your voice heard. Living, working, and walking in Greenpoint and Williamsburg doesn’t need to be dangerous. Taking extra steps to educate yourself and the ones you love can keep you and your “green” community safer.* * *



Landon Biehl is an avid writer and enjoys spending time advocating for safe practices and behaviors for families across the US. In his free time, you can find Landon running, swimming, or enjoying time at the beach. You can reach him on twitter at @lbiehl1