Safer streets on tap

Northwest Bronx residents will soon benefit from a city pilot initiative aimed at reducing traffic fatalities.

Mayor Bloomberg, transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and aging commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago recently launched Safe Streets for Seniors, a new pedestrian safety initiative for older New Yorkers.

The initiative will eventually touch 25 neighborhoods, including four in the Bronx: Fordham/University Heights, Mott Haven, Pelham Gardens and East Concourse. Department of Transportation planners selected Fordham/University Heights as one of five pilot neighborhoods citywide.

DOT has already presented its tentative plan to Community Board 5, and will visit Community Board 7’s transportation committee meeting on Monday, February 23. The lion’s share of the University Heights/Fordham initiative will benefit CB7.

“I think anything that’s going to help our residents is great,” CB7 transportation chair Lowell Green said. “In general, New Yorkers need some re-training in how to cross the street safely. Crossing in the middle of the street – we’re all guilty of that.”

Pedestrian fatalities in NYC have decreased 62 percent since 1990, but seniors remain a vulnerable group. According to a traffic study conducted from 2002 to 2006, seniors accounted for just 12 percent of the city’s population but were involved in 39 percent of all fatal pedestrian accidents.

City Hall expects NYC’s elderly population to nearly double by 2030. That means more seniors than children.

“[Safe Streets for Seniors] will not only assure that New York City remains one of the most age-friendly cities in the country, it will also serve to reduce senior fatalities at busy intersections,” Mendez-Santiago said.

DOT selected the 25 neighborhoods based on density of seniors, number of pedestrian accidents and variables like visibility, lighting, driver compliance with traffic signals and road width.

Engineers will evaluate pedestrian conditions in the neighborhoods and make changes such as extending crossing times at crosswalks, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns and narrowing roads.

“It’s terrific,” said CB5 district manager Xavier Rodriguez. “DOT should be commended. I only wish it could be expanded, because we have a number of hotspots in our community.”

In CB5, Safe Streets for Seniors will target E. 188th Street from Morris Avenue to the Grand Concourse and Field Place from Morris Avenue to the Grand Concourse.

At the former, DOT could expand the sidewalk and/or install bicycle lanes to slow traffic headed east. At the latter, DOT could plug gaps in the Grand Concourse median where pedestrians shouldn’t cross but do.

Rodriguez wishes DOT would inspect the busy intersection of University and W. Burnside avenues, the intersection of University and W. Tremont avenues, and the triangle-shaped intersection of Sedgwick and W. Tremont avenues.

Green hopes DOT will target the intersection of Bainbridge Avenue and Gun Hill Road, where Montefiore Medical Center sits. A semi-truck hit a woman there recently.

There were fewer NYC traffic fatalities in 2007 than in any year since 1910, according to city data. However, a non-profit study released in 2009 caught 39 percent of NYC drivers speeding; 32 percent of drivers rush past P.S. 54 on Webster Avenue. One driver was clocked going 66 miles per hour.

Safer streets

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