The deaths of Angelica Chorberg and Eugenia Renom this Wednesday were the direct result of poor design at the corner of 59th Street and 7th Avenue. The intersection is on a major tourist route and is one of the prime gateways to Central Park, but was designed without pedestrians in mind.
There is never a point where a person can cross 7th Avenue at 59th Street without having to vie with turning traffic. A pedestrian has less than 7 seconds of "walk" signal, but it takes 11 to 14 seconds for an able-bodied person to cross the street. Even with an additional 13 seconds of flashing "don't walk" there is little margin of error. At all times, people crossing the street have to dodge the stream of turning trucks, cars and cabs.
Left Turn Signal Leads to
The City built a left turn signal to speed motorists through the intersection, but the signal confuses pedestrians. When eastbound traffic stops, pedestrians assume (if there's no traffic coming from the park) that they can cross. As truck driver Henry Foulks proved to Ms. Chorberg and Renom, that's a deadly assumption. Once they start to cross 7th Ave, pedestrians can be faced with three lanes of speeding traffic turning off of 59th St. "Everyone calls this a tragic accident. But it's not an accident. DOT couldn't have designed a more unsafe intersection," said Paul Harrison, Transportation Alternatives Campaign Coordinator. "These grievous deaths serve notice on the City. Fix your dangerous intersections now or face responsibility for hundreds of needless pedestrian deaths every year." 249 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 1994, 12,730 were seriously injured.
Easy Improvements Could Have
There are several ways City DOT could vastly improve pedestrian safety at this intersection. Neckdowns reserve more space for pedestrians by extending the sidewalk into the parking lane, thus shortening the distance pedestrians need to cross. A Barnes Dance (one is installed at Broadway and 17th St) makes all traffic lights red at the same time so that pedestrians can cross safely without worrying about turning cars. A raised crosswalk slows traffic as it crosses the pedestrian flow and is a sharp reminder to drivers that they must yield to people in the crosswalk.
Advocates Demand Safer
New York City pedestrian safety advocates will descend upon the intersection today at 3:30 pm to demand that the DOT take seriously the appallingly high pedestrian death count and improve safety at the intersection by use of a few of the simple techniques listed above.