Changes are coming to New York City intersections.
Last week, a new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule was implemented that requires drivers, bicyclists and scooterists to stop — not yield — to pedestrians, and wait until they are done crossing the street, at more than 1,200 crosswalks in the city that don’t have stop signs or traffic lights.
A DOT spokesman told the Bronx Times the agency believes the new rule “will prevent serious crashes and protect the most vulnerable users on our streets.”
Violating the rule, coined “Stop. Let Them Cross,” has a $50 fine, but the price does not increase for repeat offenses, according to DOT.
“Drivers need to know that intersections are where most crashes happen,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “And so if you do not drive safely through them, NYPD officers will make sure you pay a price.”
Since the rule only adheres to intersections without traffic controls, drivers are still just required to yield, not stop, when there is a green light and pedestrians have a walk signal, known as the failure to yield rule.
“The existing failure to yield rule is extremely effective when enforced and we felt it did not need to be updated at this time,” a DOT spokesman told the Bronx Times on Tuesday.
However, two pedestrians were killed at separate crosswalks in Manhattan on Monday, according to the NYPD. One driver was charged with failing to yield to the pedestrian, and no arrests have been made regarding the other incident, but both investigations are ongoing. Both intersections have traffic lights on Google Maps, and police did not share what color the signals were at the time of the collisions.
While announcing the new traffic rule on Jan. 19, Adams, a Democrat, and DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez also announced that DOT will improve 1,000 intersections throughout the city with improved traffic signals, raised crosswalks and other methods that expand pedestrian space and visibility.
As for how many of the safety redesigns will come to the Bronx, a DOT spokesman said the agency is in the process of identifying intersections, based on traffic crash data and a goal of equitably distributing the efforts across the city.
“We’re excited to bring these life-saving treatments to all reaches of the five boroughs,” Rodriguez said in a statement to the Bronx Times. “Equity is embedded in everything we do at the DOT and is a guiding principle of the NYC Streets Plan. It will be reflected in our selection of intersections for this initiative.”
The city identified priority areas for safety improvement efforts in the 2019 Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, and DOT’s December 2021 NYC Streets Plan identifies priority investment areas based on the percentage of non-white and low-income residents, previous investments and density. Much of the Bronx is included as a first-tier priority.
According to data from Vision Zero — the city’s initiative to prevent traffic fatalities and serious injuries — there were 14 pedestrian fatalities, 1,303 pedestrian injuries, 5 bicyclist fatalities and 504 bicyclist injuries in the Bronx in 2021.
In City Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez’s district alone, the council district in the Bronx with the highest density of injuries, there were 181 pedestrian and 63 bicyclist injuries in 2021.
The three Bronx council members on the City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — Marjorie Velázquez of Throggs Neck, Amanda Farías of Parkchester and Althea Stevens of Concourse Village — all emphasized the importance of safer intersections.
“When I speak to my neighbors, one of their biggest concerns is putting an end to the reckless driving and racing that has plagued our community,” said Velázquez, a Democrat.
In terms of the Stop. Let them Cross rule, Stevens, a Progressive, said that intersections with high pedestrian activity should be evaluated for actually getting stop signs or traffic lights.
“I think this is a step,” she said. “But we have to continue evaluating to see what else can we do. Because just making the law makes it so we’re on an honor system. So how do we enforce it?”
Stevens said while the $50 fine seems reasonable, it should be truly enforced across devices.
“I think we really need to get a handle on scooters we have in the community, even some of the bikes,” she said.
Farías, a Progressive, said improving intersections is critical for everyone’s safety, particularly as her district prepares for the expansion of Citi Bike and inclusion in the e-scooter pilot program this year.
Reach Aliya Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.