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Transportation

Why More People Didn't Get Hurt in Times Square

Pedestrian injuries in New York City’s most crowded space have plummeted since a recent redesign. But the real fix is to ban cars entirely.
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Michael Grimm/Snøhetta

Twenty-two people were injured and one person was killed when a driver raced through a busy sidewalk in Times Square on Thursday. In the immediate aftermath, New Yorkers worried that the incident might have been a terrorist attack, akin to the fatal vehicle-ramming attacks in Stockholm in April or the mass-casualty attack in Nice in 2016. It wasn’t: A final determination on the crash has not been made, but the driver of the vehicle, Richard Rojas, may have been under the influence—a far more common threat on U.S. streets than terrorism.

The fatal tragedy might have been a lot deadlier were it not for the work of designers to boost public safety in Times Square over the last decade. The motorist drove north on the west-side sidewalk of Seventh Avenue for three blocks between 42nd Street and 45th Street, when he crashed into steel bollards—public-safety features introduced to Times Square in its recent reconstruction. “The car eventually impaled itself on the bollards,” says David Burney, former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction. “If those bollards hadn’t been there, it would have been much worse.”