Leaving Cars Behind, Seniors Find Streets Inhospitable

1431951650_b0764494d8.jpgA recent poll conducted by AARP finds that Americans over the age of 50 are cutting down on car trips due to rising gas prices, but are finding public infrastructure, or lack thereof, to be an obstacle.

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walking
as a way to avoid high gas prices. But as those people set out to walk,
almost 40% of the 50+ population say they do not have adequate
sidewalks in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 44% say they do not
have nearby public transportation that is accessible. Almost half (47%)
of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely – 4 in
10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.

Still, 40 percent of poll respondents say they have walked, biked, or taken public transit more frequently since gasoline prices began trending upward. More than half, 54 percent, say they would use alternate modes of transportation if conditions were improved.

As older New Yorkers can attest, impediments to car-free mobility are not exclusive to suburbs and exurbs. Washington, DC, for example, ranks ninth — better than Arizona but worse than Florida — in pedestrian fatalities among those over age 65, according to AARP. (New York state is third worst, behind Hawaii and Alaska.)

With some 35 million members, AARP is a formidable lobby. As a member of the National Complete Streets Coalition and backer of legislation that would steer federal funds toward making roadways accessible to all users, it promises to be a player in next year’s big transportation appropriations bill.

Photo: Tuan Phan/Flickr

  • A friend of mine who happened to live in Phoenix for a horrible year of his life told me that the news would often report about senior citizens killed in traffic accidents were often investigated for clues of intent to commit suicide by traffic accident. Similarly young people killed were investigated for signs of drugs or alcohol. The idea was that only someone suicidal, drunk or high would cross certain streets/highways at night.

  • JP

    I hate to sound like a big ol’ jerk, but it is because of the actions and priorities of this generation that we’re in this auto-dependent situation.

    This is the generation that abandoned streetcars and rails and let the NYC Subway rot.

  • JP, my 82-year-old mother is not part of the generation that abandoned streetcars. I once asked her if she remembered the trolley that ran through our hometown (the tracks disappeared when I was 5). She didn’t remember it — it was the previous generation that abandoned streetcars.

    The good news is that there is now a huge new constituency for livable streets — and they go out and vote.

  • Shemp

    Thanks for reporting this – great to learn about.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Seniors living in the suburbs and getting too old to drive safely is going to be a big problem in this country.

  • Ian Turner

    This has the power to drive a lot of change, the AARP being the most powerful lobby in America.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

NRDC Poll: Americans Support New Transit Twice as Much as New Roads

|
When asked what would solve traffic problems in their community, 42 percent of Americans say more transit. Only 20 percent say more roads. And 21 percent would like to see communities developed that don’t require so much driving. Two-thirds support local planning that guides new development into existing cities and near public transportation. That’s the […]

In DC, the Danger of Enraged Driving Is on the Rise

|
Road rage is boiling over. Twelve percent of people surveyed in the Washington, DC, metro area said they often feel “uncontrollable anger toward another driver.” The number of people reporting such feelings has doubled since 2005, according to the Washington Post, which conducted the survey. Rage can be an impairment like intoxication or distraction, according to Leon […]

“Crisis” Mode AAA Urges Panicked Drivers to Take Transit

|
  Drivers, elected officials and the Daily News are freaking out as city gas prices hit $4 a gallon. The hysteria has reached such a pitch that AAA New York is doing the unthinkable, advising drivers to reduce consumption. It costs so much to fuel up that the American Automobile Association is urging its members […]

Q Poll Finds Americans Opposed to Gas Tax “Holiday”

|
For what it’s worth, a Quinnipiac poll released today again shows that Americans aren’t buying into the Clinton-McCain gas tax "holiday" gimmick. By a 49 – 41 percent margin, American voters say eliminating the federal gas tax for the summer is a bad idea… Republicans split 45 – 46 percent on the gas tax ‘holiday,’ […]