Following the deaths of three pedestrians in the area over the last two weeks, better signage and longer pedestrian signals have been implemented at the 97th Street and West End Avenue intersection. The changes are part of the efforts of District 6 City Council member Helen Rosenthal and the city’s Department of Transportation to introduce short-term traffic safety improvements.
“Within four days of the first accidents [the deaths of Alexander Shear and Cooper Stock] we got them to post a ‘yield to pedestrians’ sign on West End Avenue at the corner of 97th Street,” Rosenthal said Friday. At that intersection, a taxi driver failing to yield struck and killed Stock, 9, as he was crossing the street with his father Richard the evening of Jan. 10. Stock and his father had the walk signal.
Rosenthal also said that the Leading Pedestrian Interval Signal has been increased, which means that pedestrians are given the “Walk” signal 12 seconds before the green light allows cars to turn into the crosswalk. This allows for pedestrians to be further into the crosswalk when the light turns green, making them more visible to drivers.
“The third thing we are asking them to do, but because of the cold weather they can’t do it immediately, is to paint those ‘LOOK’ stencils on the pavement,” Rosenthal added.
These actions come after Rosenthal and District 7 City Council member Mark Levine penned a letter to Margaret Forgione, the Manhattan borough commissioner of the Department of Transportation, requesting immediate modifications to safety regulations.
“We are in agreement with the Community Board 7 ‘short-term’ recommendations for West 97th Street and Broadway, and are asking for a few actions that we are hoping DOT can take immediately,” the letter said.
Mark Levine sent out a press release on Jan. 19, expressing his support of including 96th Street in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s highly publicized “Vision Zero” plan for traffic fatalities, which pledges to use “an approach that combines education, smarter streets, and strong enforcement to reduce dangerous and illegal behavior on our streets—including speeding, distracted driving, and failure to yield to pedestrians,” according to the mayor’s website.
De Blasio announced plans for his initiative on Jan. 15 and has said that he will have a more concrete program by Feb. 15.
In her first month as the successor of Gale Brewer—now the Manhattan borough president—Rosenthal has made traffic and pedestrian safety a priority, mirroring Levine’s and Brewer’s support on the matter.
Brewer attended the Jan. 16 vigil for Stock along with Levine, Rosenthal, and City Comptroller and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
“Every single driver in the city of New York should be going at 20 miles per hour, not 40, and not 50 or 60,” Brewer said at the time, as quoted by Streetsblog.com. “We also need to do something about trucks and buses—they’re too big and they’re too heavy.”
District 69 State Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell has also expressed his backing for changes. He introduced a bill on Jan. 16 to decrease the city’s speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour.
Rosenthal said that the Jan. 30 CB7 meeting will allow the Department of Transportation “both to present their ideas just for 96th and Broadway and to listen to the community.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Leading Pedestrian Interval as the Leading Pedestrian Indicator. It also incorrectly stated that at the 97th Street and West End Avenue intersection, the flashing numbers that count down to the “Don’t Walk” signal were increased to 12 seconds. Actually, pedestrians are now given the “Walk” signal 12 seconds before the green light allows cars to turn into the crosswalk. Spectator regrets the error.