Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Many People Have to Die Before We Make the Streets Safer?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM

On Monday, a 57-year-old woman was crossing Fourth Avenue near 86th Street in Bay Ridge, a major commercial corridor, a little after 6am when a Honda hit her, broke her arm, caused severe head trauma, and put her in a state of cardiac arrest as she was taken to Lutheran hospital, Brooklyn Daily reported. She died there. Such accidents are simply becoming a way of life in Bay Ridge and the borough and city beyond. "Another week, another pedestrian struck," read the lede in a local paper, The Home Reporter.

In mid-March, a 34-year-old woman was hit by a speeding car down the block, at 86th Street and Third Avenue. "I saw the car coming toward me, with the windshield broke, and my eyes went to the floor and I saw it, and I thought, ‘God let that be a garbage bag, anything, please don’t let that be a human being,’" a witness told Brooklyn Daily. He added "the woman was being dragged under the car as it came to a stop next to the curb." She survived.

In October, two cars collided at 86th Street and Fourth Avenue; it "looked like a demolition derby," Brooklyn Daily reported. The intersection "is a 'high pedestrian crash location,'" the Home Reporter reports, "with 23 accidents and one fatality between 2006 and 2010. Also, 45 percent of vehicles speed through the intersection." While some accidents occur as pedestrians cross in the middle of the block, more occur when they're crossing with the light in the crosswalk.

So, what to do about this death trap? Well, the department of transportation recently unveiled a plan to make Fourth Avenue safer, particularly in Bay Ridge where it would reduce two traffic lanes each way to one (with a painted median down the middle); at the fatal 86th Street intersection, a pedestrian island would be installed.

These are sensible recommendations to tamp down a city of out-of-control motorists; from late February through March, cars rammed five pedestrians across the city while they were on the sidewalk. Three died, but no charges were filed against any of the drivers. In March, two expectant Williamsburg parents were in a cab on the way to the hospital when they were hit and killed; their baby died later. On Saturday, a car drove up on the sidewalk in East Flatbush and sent 12 people waiting for a bus to the hospital, including a 3-year-old.

Etc. etc. etc. Another week, another pedestrian struck.

86th Street pedestrian island plan
  • A vision of the future for 86th Street
Accidents happen, but there are steps the city can take to reduce them. And though even a comprehensive package of reforms won't stop all accidents from happening, even some of those mentioned above, any reasonable steps we can take to reduce the number of people getting killed by drivers is a step we have a moral imperative to take. Police precincts, for example, could do their goddamn jobs and issue speeding tickets. Or, barring that, take for example the proposal for speed cameras, which died in Albany last week when three state lawmakers blocked it. "The next time [a child is killed by a speeding car], Mr. Bloomberg [said] “why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” He meant Dean Skelos, Simcha Felder and Bay Ridge's Marty Golden, and he's right—speed cameras slow traffic and slowed traffic saves lives, and those who impede their implementation have a moral responsibility for the lives lost. (There's a rally on Friday afternoon in front of Marty Golden's office.)

The changes proposed to Fourth Avenue are similarly reasonable, but they have been met by unreasonable critics. “It’s going to back up everything,” one critic told Brooklyn Daily. Well oh dear imagine that—imagine taking slightly longer to get somewhere and more people living full lives because of it!

And then there's Alan Bortnick, still a member of Community Board 10 despite his clear unhingedness. "Bortnick argued the proposal was the culmination of an anti-auto conspiracy on the part of Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan," Brooklyn Daily reported. "He claimed that the [public outlining of the proposal] was a sham, and that the city had drawn up the plans months in advance. 'Sadik-Khan is really Sadist-Khan, and she never met a car she liked,' said Bortnick. 'They’re duping the public.'"

Does he mean to suggest the dead pedestrians piling up around the city are an illusion? If so, perhaps he could take a trip to a morgue to see the dead bodies for himself. Because they're very real, unacceptable, and preventable.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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About The Author

Henry Stewart

Henry Stewart

Bio:
Henry Stewart is the Culture Editor at The L Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine. He has always lived in Brooklyn.

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