96TH STREET GETS ITS LONG-AWAITED REDESIGN; IS IT SAFER?

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Council member Helen Rosenthal, Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Jerry Nadler and others showed up to praise the changes at 96th street and Broadway.

The troublesome intersection at West 96th street and Broadway has been redesigned to try to reduce crashes, two of which took the lives of Upper West Siders earlier this year.

That intersection is notoriously busy, and even more so since the city built a new subway station in the center island. The center island was overcrowded and pedestrians often walked against the light, a treacherous move at such a high-traffic crossroads.

So in a project that took about a month and a half, the city has extended the curbs on the street corners, enlarged the mall at the North end of the intersection, and forbid Southbound vehicles on Broadway from making left turns. Signal timing has been changed and there’s also a crosswalk now that connects the North and South malls, as shown below.

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Diagram of crosswalk changes from DOT presentation.

Our commenters have complained about how many people jaywalk in that area, and there’s been a spirited debate about whether police should crack down on people crossing against the light or in the middle of the street. At a press conference at the new intersection on Tuesday, some journalists asked about jaywalking, with one even asking if police would focus more on pedestrian who walk and text. Streetsblog noted that texting while walking isn’t a crime (texting while driving is), and said that the NYPD official in charge of street safety is more concerned about the danger posed by cars:

“Motorists are operating a 4,000 pound vehicle. And we cannot be distracted while we’re operating that vehicle,” he said. “When a collision occurs between a motorist and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses 100 percent of the time. So again, it’s very important that our motorists, who are obligated to be licensed, that they operate in a way that’s not distracted.”

Photo via Councilman Mark Levine.

NEWS | 17 comments | permalink
    1. John Gibson says:

      Sounds like the NYPD official in charge of street safety doesn’t give a damn about street safety if the pedestrian jaywalking issue is not cracked down on. It’s nothing more than “safety theatre” that will accomplish little. You can’t solve an issue by ignoring one of the primary root causes of the issue.

    2. Paul RL says:

      Not only do I live at this intersection, but I drive through it as well as walk through it daily. Any attention to making the intersection safer should focus squarely on ticketing drivers, not pedestrians. As a jaywalking pedestrian, I am for the most part a danger only to myself. On the other hand, as a texting or speeding driver I am a danger to anything in front of me.

      • John Gibson says:

        Why not the logical approach of addressing both problems? Jaywalking / blocking traffic and the results on drivers makes things more dangerous for other pedestrians. I don’t drive and cross 96th and Broadway twice a day and without a doubt the behavior of my fellow pedestrians makes things more dangerous for me and others who aren’t brazen enough to think that our crossing the street is not urgent enough as to interfere with the vehicle traffic flow when the don’t walk signal is lit.

        • Paul RL says:

          Point taken, and while I don’t disagree, I just have nightmares about cops spending their time writing up someone for walking across the street while behind him an idiot is screeching across the intersection to beat a yellow light.

        • DMH says:

          Did you happen to see the DOT’s presentation to the community board? I thought it was fantastic.

          Some part of creating a new crosswalk where resident taxpayers like to cross, and retiming the pedestrian signals at 96th to cut down on jaywalking and increase safety for drivers and pedestrians strikes you as illogical? To me, that’s exactly what DOT and local gov’t should be coming together for.

          I don’t know the history here but I wondered why a subway exit on the north side of 96th Street wasn’t an option. Does anyone know?

          Last of all, hope they’ve got better signage than a week ago. If you emerge from the subway facing south, you’ve got no street signs to orient you – tricky!

          • John Gibson says:

            That is good… But case in point this morning… Cars in the left turn lane on the Northbound side have the arrow, there is a cop directing traffic waving them to move forward and they can’t move because a handful of pedestrians seem to take the approach that the cross walk signal is to be ignored and that if the northbound cars have the red light it’s A-OK to cross.

            A few days of handing out tickets would go along way towards educating pedestrians about when it’s ok and when it’s not ok to be out in the middle of the street. What would be the harm in that approach?

      • geoff says:

        i too think it is as simple as you say.

        what complicates matters is impatience, then anger.

        • geoff says:

          in response to Paul RL, “Not only do I live at this intersection, but I drive through it as well as walk through it daily. Any attention to making the intersection safer should focus squarely on ticketing drivers, not pedestrians. As a jaywalking pedestrian, I am for the most part a danger only to myself. On the other hand, as a texting or speeding driver I am a danger to anything in front of me.”

          i too think it is a simple as you say.

          what complicates matters is impatience, then anger.

      • Kenneth says:

        Paul, As a jaywalking pedestrian you are also a danger to drivers obeying all traffic laws. You should be subject to a summons.

        • Paul RL says:

          Okay, let me clarify. I didn’t mean to imply that jaywalkers, including myself, should be exempt from a summons. But I maintain that without unlimited resources to properly manage that intersection, it is far more important to focus on errant or careless drivers who can cause far greater damage. As an every day driver myself in a city that is primarily a walking city, I can forgive a jaywalking pedestrian far more than I can forgive a texting or speeding driver.

    3. Mark says:

      I’m not necessarily in favor of police spending time looking for jaywalkers. I jaywalk myself sometimes, but only after thoroughly checking all directions myself and not ever relying on what others are doing. However it is not correct to say jaywalking only endangers the perpetrator. A car may swerve to miss a pedestrian and hurt themselves, other cars, or pedestrians on the sidewalk. I therefore am fine with police making judgements call and ticketing jaywalkers who are doing it without paying proper attention and/or doing when traffic is nearby..

    4. Kimberly H says:

      So does the problem now move down to 95th (which isn’t designed to take on the left hand turn traffic from Southbound drivers) and West End for the westbound drivers bedding to take a left?

      • Chris Everett says:

        Yes, this is a terrible change. Rush hour traffic is now driven to West End Ave in front of the school where children cross, then back up 95th street in front of the other subway entrance. So all they’ve really done is gratuitously endanger children.

    5. diane wildowsky says:

      It probably couldn’t be done or it would have been done, but if another entrance to the trains had been made on the center island of the north side of 96th Street, a lot of these issues would disappear. We’re all rushing the lights to either catch a train or get to our destination when we get off the train. Building an entry/exit on the north side might have made a big difference.

    6. Vince says:

      Look around, jaywalking is part of the New York City culture. I’m sure the police quickly became aware of this, and backed away from targeting jaywalkers.

    7. UpperwesetsideGuy says:

      Regardless of what physical impediments exist or are manufactured people still and make illegal left turns all day long at this location .
      The other issue is speed enforcement. NYC Fails on nearly all counts in this respect. When was the last time you got in a cab that followed the posted limit anywhere? Never.
      I applaud the changes made so far, this this sense of entitlement that says we get to pick and choose what laws we follow is the true cause of the carnage.

    8. wendy says:

      I fear that these changes are just going to cause bottlenecks at 95th and elsewhere, now that you can’t make a turn at a street where there actually were LH turn lanes! I’m both a driver and pedestrian, and both are at fault, especially the pedestrians. Many times, I’ve been at the LT light on Broadway trying to turn left onto 96th, and pedestrians ignore the signals. It’s not just about the drivers!!!

      If they really really want to curb jaywalking and prevent these accidents, they would have installed the gates that prevent people from crossing at that intersection, like they have on 6th Ave. at Radio City Music Hall (in case you haven’t see it, you cannot cross anymore at the literal intersection on 6th and 49th or 50th – there are fences blocking the way – you must walk a little further down the block to a crosswalk that has a light). This plan sounds like no repercussions at all for jaywalkers, who are a huge part of the problem! Also, why don’t they post signs reminding pedestrians that several people have died at that intersection, and to mind the signals?