City Installs Plastic Barriers to Slow Cars Making Left Turns, But Drivers Keep Running Them Over

The city recently placed plastic posts on 93rd Street and West End Avenue to force drivers to make more gradual left turns, but the early evidence indicates that drivers aren’t paying much attention.

A tipster sent in the photo above last week showing the intersection with the remnants of the plastic posts. He said that the posts are “a good idea in theory” but that drivers have repeatedly driven over them, leaving nubs that pose new hazards.

“Less than 24 hours after it was erected  – squat in the middle of West End Avenue – two of the reflective posts were destroyed. After just a few days, all of them (each about a foot tall) have been knocked off by cars leaving six just little black plastic base mounts that drivers can’t see – especially at night.

It is an idiotic hazard that cars are constantly running over. At about 4:00 am a taxi drove over them and had a small accident.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation wrote that a crew quickly fixed the smashed posts, and that the city may start using stronger materials.

“This treatment, installed earlier this month, is part of our Left Turn Calming Program and meant to mitigate the high rate of left turn bike and pedestrian injuries at this location. We have a dedicated maintenance crew that is responsible for repairing these treatments, and the 93rd Street/West End Avenue location was repaired today [last Wednesday]. We are also in the process of piloting more durable materials.”

West End Avenue has proven deadly for pedestrians in the past few years. Both 61-year-old Jean Chambers and 9-year-old Cooper Stock were killed by drivers making left turns onto West End. The driver who hit Chambers on 95th and West End took a particularly sharp left turn, as seen on a surveillance video from the scene. The avenue gets substantial traffic from the Henry Hudson Parkway, and drivers sometimes treat the avenue like an off-ramp instead of a residential street.

The DOT says that left-turn barriers have proven successful at forcing drivers to slow down. “In New York City intersections where Left Turn Traffic Calming Treatments have been implemented, median left turn speeds have decreased by 24.4%.”

This is not the first time that drivers slammed into safety barriers on West End Avenue.

NEWS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. Alta says:

      I think the 6,000 pound projectiles that can’t see where they are going are the idiotic hazards, not a little plastic in the street.

      • David says:

        If the Upper West Side had basic amenities, like a real supermarket carrying everyday products in multiple sizes (i.e.: how many different size boxes of Cheerios does Faiway have.), or a reasonably priced children’s clothing store (i.e.: The dearly departed Children’s Place), our family wouldn’t need a car to shop elsewhere.

        And if you think cars are the only problem, what about parents on bikes bringing their children to school riding on the side of the one-way street that doesn’t have the bike lane? Or the adult we saw on a bike riding eastbound on West 77 Street from Amsterdam towards Columbus around 8:15am on a school day?

        We’ve seen all of this, not to mention pedestrians that jay-walk against the light with cars coming towards them at the intersection. My point is, everyone can be at fault.

        • Juan says:

          I generally agree with your point but as far as the lack of shopping options mandating the need for a car, there is this thing called the internet where you can order pretty much anything you need from the comfort of your home. It makes life dramatically easier and saves a lot of time, energy and often money.

    2. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      I applaud the persistence of the DOT. The fact that the traffic calming devices are quickly run over points to the seriousness of the problem at this intersection.

    3. Bill Williams says:

      Jean Chambers was hit on 95th street not 97th and has anybody seen the police report from the Strock accident?

      These accidents were anomalies and as a result West End Avenue is now a clogged mess with an increase in traffic, noise and agressive driving.

      There are more people being killed by the increase in emissions from cars sitting in traffic and the added stress of constant horn honking than by left turning cars.

    4. Glenn says:

      We need more cameras enforcing speed, red lights, truck routes and other traffic laws. Most drivers are not from the area and don’t respect the laws that keep pedestrians safe.

    5. Carlos says:

      I very rarely drive a car and believe the primary responsibility should be with car drivers to be very careful. That being said, it would be nice if pedestrians would be more helpful to drivers.

      If you are walking across the street, move as quickly as possible so that you are out of the way, particularly if you are crossing against the light. If you see a car trying to turn left across traffic and it looks like they have a brief second to go, consider waiting a moment and let them turn – you waiting a few seconds could save them a few minutes.

      On the rare occasion when I am driving, it is incredibly annoying to be trying to make a turn and having to wait for an oblivious pedestrian standing in the middle of a cross walk checking their texts (this applies to many other locations like checking texts on the sidewalk, on a stair case, on the subway platform, etc.)

      • Confused says:

        Carlos, bravo to you for suggesting people think about someone other than themselves! Too many of the posts are from car-haters. While I agree that pedestrian safety is of utmost importance, everyone has a part to play in a city where there are a tremendous number of cars in a relatively small space.

    6. Lucy Gianino says:

      Actually, this new construction is causing more road rage rather than calm. We live on the corner and can hear how often drivers are being yelled at by waiting cars as they let someone off. I appreciate the importance of changing the traffic flow where those two people were killed. That is a highly dangerous section but is creating a one way street and actually impedes the traffic and makes for testy drivers who accelerate and beep their horns. Truely a misguided effort on the part of DOT!

    7. Bz says:

      I live on West End within the confines of the 20 pct. I have complained in person to the commander about speeding vehicles and the ive all dangers of the avenue..and asked why isn’t there more enforcement . I may as well have been talking to a brick wall. It just isn’t a priority.

    8. JC says:

      Hello? Can’t they just put up signs along 96th from Riverside to West End. Signage Works!

    9. Scott says:

      I drive, and these things are a nuisance. They force you to remain far out to the right while making a left turn, then turn sharply when you’ve cleared the sticks. I suppose they convince TPTB that they’re doing something useful when they’re just adding aggravation for drivers (which no doubt pleases the car haters).

      And let’s remember Jean Chambers would not have been saved by these obstacles, since the idiot who hit her turned down the wrong way on WEA into oncoming traffic. As for Cooper Stock, the guy who hit him didn’t belong on the road anywhere at any time.

      • Zulu says:

        What you consider to be a nuisance can be a life saver to others. The whole point as you clearly noted is to first make the driver slow down enough to manage the increased sharpness of the turn but secondly and just as important is to reposition the vehicle in such a way that the A Pillar on the windshield does not obstruct the view to the location most likely for a pedestrian to be. So as a matter of geometric perspective it gives drivers a better view of the road ahead.

        • Scott says:

          It would be great if you had actual data to support your theories re the A pillar and the geometry of turning, but I bet you don’t.

          One thing you failed to note is that by forcing the driver turning left out to the right, he’s now impeding the guy behind him going straight, which clogs up the roads and is not a win for anyone.

          The real issue is the quality of people who are driving. People who have multiple hit and run felonies on their driving abstract, along with multiple DUIs and license suspensions, are allowed by Andrew Cuomo to remain on the roads.

          • Zulu says:

            Here’s a really good article about the A-pillar and it’s dreaded blind spot. The pictures towards the end of the article really convey the issue that every driver faces on every left turn they make. https://www.wnyc.org/story/left-turns/

            This other link makes a case for lowering the turning speeds and the plus and minuses. Flow and throughput of vehicles are obviously diminished but safety for the more vulnerable users is increased.
            https://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2015/10/intersection-design-or-how-turning-radius-shaping-your-life

            As a society we need to decide what to be. My vote is for adopting the necessary engineering and design solutions for the common good. Cities across the world are shifting towards pedestrian safety. In my book, that’s the right decision to make.

            • Scott says:

              The article you referenced, while interesting, doesn’t prove anything about the A pillar.

              For one thing, it doesn’t distinguish between left turns on two-way vs. one-way streets. There is a massive difference. People turning left on two-way streets have to deal with oncoming traffic, which adds much more complexity to the turn, especially for bad and aggressive drivers. They also typically have someone behind them impatiently waiting for them to turn, which adds stress to the maneuver.

              The onus should be on the regulatory agencies to prove that these wide turn obstacles actually save lives, and to be able to point to specific case studies BEFORE they waste taxpayer monies on hunches.

    10. JRVHS says:

      Good point about drivers treating 96th as an off-ramp from WSH, rather than a residential city street. Signs may help, but what about rumble strips (or speed bumps) to remind drivers they have exited the highway and need to slow down–they are in the city now.

    11. Concerned citizen says:

      A foot high Post is not visible to a driver who is close
      to the post and obviously has not made pedestrian crossing any safer. The obvious solution is for pedestrians to have a specified time to cross when cars are stopped in All directions. Many cities have solved the turning safety problem in that manner.

      • Woody says:

        The obvious solution is for drivers to have a specified time to turn when pedestrians are stopped in All directions. Many cities have solved the turning safety problem in that manner.

        Why is it that pedestrians never have to obey the traffic laws? As far as I’m concerned, one loses the right to criticize another when they decide which laws don’t apply to them.

    12. lynn says:

      I’ve been going to the Animal Medical Center on east 62nd street just off York Avenue for 20+ years, and there are always traffic police in that intersection. Why can’t they do the same for this area on the UWS?

      • Woody says:

        You mean like the traffic cop who stands at Broadway and 78th St every time there’s a little work done in the area? No thanks, we don’t need any more useless city employees doing nothing.

        • lynn says:

          No, I mean 2-4 traffic police who have been actively and aggressively doing their jobs for the past 20+ years and directing vehicles to make that left turn (from both directions) without killing pedestrians. Back to my original question of why this isn’t being implemented on the UWS.

          • Woody says:

            We need less city employees, not more. That’s why our SALT taxes are so high and we’re going to suffer under the new tax plan.

            Yours is a classical liberal solution to hire more people to provide relatively unproductive services at a high social cost. Get familiar with how every tax dollar collected provides a significantly reduced benefit once it gets digested by government’s administrative structure.

            There is nothing unique about 93rd or 95th Streets that would require special monitoring by traffic officers any more than at other intersections around the city. Pedestrians need to start respecting traffic laws, too, so that drivers can operate their vehicles with more predictability.

    13. Peter Kaufman says:

      I am frequently on that corner.

      People are correct that this entire area is treated like an on/off-ramp to a highway.

      Stand at the corner of WEA and 96th street – at least 1 car runs a red light every couple of minutes.

      The idea that these traffic-calming measures lead to ‘rage’ among drivers, shows how important they are.

      I love the implicit threat of, “If you don’t let me drive how/where the f*ck I want, I might just get enraged and run you over!”

    14. Kim says:

      Maybe the barriers would be more effective if drivers knew that running them over would damage their tires. That type of barrier would do the job!!