The New York City neighborhoods with the worst health and poverty outcomes, also tend to have more injuries from traffic, according to data analyzed by urban planners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
Using census information, city health data and other publicly available information, urban planners at MIT’s Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism and organizers at Transportation Alternatives built a new online tool correlating racial and health care disparities in the five boroughs to transit gaps.
The groups found that City Council districts with large Black and Latino populations appear to have fewer bike and bus lanes, are hotter in the summer and have less bike parking compared to the city average.
“Spatial inequity results in worse health outcomes, longer commutes, and higher rates of traffic violence — and the harm disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color,” said Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
By connecting specific Council districts and community boards to this data, Transportation Alternatives hopes it will spur lawmakers and neighborhood leaders to take action and allocate more resources and green space to their residents, Harris added.
Neighborhoods with a higher share of Black residents have 68% fewer protected bike lanes than elsewhere in the city, according to the group's analysis. In those same areas, there is 53% fewer places to park a bike and 39% more traffic injuries compared to the city average.
In areas where the majority of residents are Latino adults, asthma rates are 40% higher than the city average. Buses in majority Latino neighborhoods were also found to be 10% slower, making them home to some of the slowest buses in the city, according to the data tool.
“Every so often a tool comes along that allows people to understand their surroundings and approach issues with fresh eyes, and that is exactly what Spatial Equity NYC does,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. “From heat islands to asthma rates, from protected bike lanes to traffic fatalities, Spatial Equity NYC enables us to connect the dots from the inequitable conditions New Yorkers are forced to live with and the environment we, as a city, choose to create."
For Transportation Alternatives, the non-profit that pushes lawmakers to make streets safer and advocates for decreased car use, the Spatial Equity NYC tool is an extension of the group’s efforts to get the city to convert 25% of the street space used by vehicles for non-car use in the next 25 years.