Data shows that the implementation of car-free streets leads to a reduction in car crashes and injuries, according to a new analysis by Streetsblog. The analysis specifically examined New York City’s “Open Streets” program on 34th Avenue between 69th Street and Junction Boulevard in Queens, which is kept pedestrian-only for 12 hours every day. Using data provided by the city, Streetsblog compared car crashes and injuries on the Avenue in 2019, before the program was implemented, and after its implementation in 2021.
What the analysis ultimately found was a striking decline in crashes and injuries. In 2019, city data showed 26 crashes on that stretch of 34th Avenue between 7am and 8pm, compared to 12 hours during the same period in 2021. With respect to injuries, there were 19 during that timeframe in 2019 compared to two in 2021. The analysis also found that total crashes and injuries—that is, incidents before, during, and after the Open Streets period—in the area declined in 2021, from a total of 40 crashes and 29 injuries in 2019 to 18 and eight in 2021. Streetsblog concludes that this drop is “most likely because fewer drivers use 34th Avenue, having become accustomed to the fact that it is off-limits to them half the day.”
In a statement to the publication, an organizer for safe streets advocacy group Transportation Alternatives praised the open streets program while calling for its expansion, saying: “We need to expand the open street program equitably citywide so that every neighborhood has access to safe open space… Bringing permanent, 24/7 open streets to more places will help New York City meet its Vision Zero goals.”
As Streetsblog describes, the NYC Department of Transportation published a “preliminary plan” in October 2021 to establish a permanent open street on 34th Avenue, while then-mayoral candidate Eric Adams said he would “pedestrianize more of the city” and use open streets to discourage the use of cars. In a statement, a DOT spokesman said, “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the community to implement improvements to the 34th Avenue open street so it can serve the neighborhood for generations to come.”