Eyes on the Street: Why Pedestrian Islands Belong at More NYC Intersections

Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag
Last night, a driver hit a newly-installed pedestrian island at the same crossing where Cooper Stock was killed earlier this year. The driver told police she didn’t see it. Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

Here’s a reminder of why the city can’t roll out street design changes fast enough. Last night, a driver turning left through the crosswalk from West 97th Street to West End Avenue struck a bollard on a pedestrian island that had been installed just days before. According to West Side Rag, the woman told police that she did not see the bollard before driving into it.

Last night’s crash occurred at the same crossing where 9-year-old Cooper Stock was struck and killed in January, also by a driver making a left turn through the crosswalk.

The pedestrian island was installed this month as part of a road diet DOT proposed in the wake of Cooper’s death and a nearly-identical crash in which a turning driver killed Jean Chambers in the crosswalk at 95th Street this July. The city carved out space for the pedestrian refuge by reducing the number of car lanes on the street.

The concrete island is actually the exception, not the rule, along the revamped West End Avenue. The road diet consists mostly of paint, which channels but does not restrict drivers’ movement. The plan was initially criticized for including pedestrian islands at only 95th and 97th Streets, where fatalities had occurred. DOT later modified the plan and increased that number to four intersections along the 35-block avenue.

Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag
Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

Streetsblog reached out this morning to Dana Lerner, Cooper’s mother. “I have been asked very often about what I feel about the medians that are being put in front of my building where the crash that killed my son occurred,” she said in an e-mail. “It’s very painful for me that it has taken my son’s death for the powers that be (Community Board 7, DOT, etc.) to begin to focus attention on this matter.”

The road diet only came about after two high-profile pedestrian deaths, even though traffic violence is a daily problem on all city streets. Lerner said the city needs to dramatically scale up its response if it is going to make a dent in reducing traffic violence. “Crashes happen in epidemic proportions, but I do not feel that the mayor’s Vision Zero plan is taking that into account,” she said. “This is a serious matter with devastating consequences.”