- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City, Philadelphia and Louisville, Kentucky, were awarded $1.6 million in federal grants Friday for programs designed to curb pedestrian deaths.

The cities will use the money to educate drivers and pedestrians, go after speeders and create safe walking routes, said David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said the selected cities have had high numbers of pedestrian fatalities and could become models for new approaches in traffic safety. In New York, he said, 127 pedestrians were killed in 2012, accounting for nearly half of the city’s traffic deaths that year.

“Everyone is a pedestrian at some point in their day,” Friedman said. “These grants give local communities an opportunity to shine a spotlight on their pedestrian safety concerns and make their cities safer places to walk.”

Friedman announced the grants during his keynote speech at the World Traffic Safety Symposium in New York and later joined the city’s transportation commissioner and other officials at a news conference in Times Square. The area, dubbed the Crossroads of the World, has been closed to car traffic since 2009, turning it into a multi-block pedestrian plaza.

Half of the city’s $805,801 grant will go to police to combat speeding and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, said New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. She said the other half will be used to reach out to young men, the demographic most likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes, through enforcement in high-crash areas as well as social media.

The grant for New York comes as the city is implementing Vision Zero, a program aimed at eliminating pedestrian deaths through reduced speeds on dangerous roads, pedestrian islands, changing road designs and other measures.

“We hope to make New York City the safest big city in the world,” Trottenberg said.

Philadelphia, which had 31 pedestrian deaths accounting for 29 percent of its traffic fatalities in 2012, will receive $525,000 to increase police visibility and ticketing during high-risk hours in 20 high-crash locations in and around downtown. The city, Friedman said, will also use the money to train police officers on pedestrian safety and to fund viral marketing efforts to reach pedestrians in those areas.

Louisville, which had six pedestrian deaths accounting for 10 percent of traffic fatalities in 2012, will receive $307,000 to start a pedestrian education program from children and to build safe walking routes for senior citizens and train law enforcement.

The grants will be distributed over multiple years to give the cities time to implement the programs and file reports with their findings, he said.

“We want to see impacts and we want to measure those impacts,” Friedman said.