Sometimes, dangerous intersections can be fixed only after community activism

Middle school students in the Bronx have taken up the cause of improving the safety of city streets. After three years of lobbying the city, they can finally point to a result, although it was not the result they wanted. The students, members of a youth program called Bronx Helpers, have tried to get a traffic light installed at the intersection of East 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue.

The students say that motorists speed down Townsend Avenue without regard for pedestrians. Moreover, they say it’s difficult for pedestrians trying to cross the street to see oncoming cars because the city allows parking right to the corner.

The city responded to student concerns by installing a No Standing sign to prohibit parking close to the intersection, allowing pedestrians to see and be seen. However, some residents believe that this was the wrong solution and that a No Standing sign takes valuable street parking away from neighborhood residents. Some residents would prefer a stop light that would slow traffic while retaining parking spaces – and this was the students’ original goal.

The students are continuing to lobby the city for other traffic improvements, now focusing on creating a Neighborhood Slow Zone in Mount Eden that would reduce speed limits and add other traffic safety measures.

Another South Bronx intersection that had attracted local attention was the corner at East 156th and Kelly streets. The local Community Board spent 13 years lobbying the Department of Transportation for a stop sign before a New York Daily News inquiry finally spurred the DOT to take action.

Although pleased that the DOT finally took action, Raphael Salamanca Jr. said that he was concerned that it took media intervention to get results even though there had been 23 accidents in five years and 13 years of Community Board requests for action. The most recent incident was on Feb. 22, when a police van crashed into the front steps of a house with a day care center on the first floor.

Advocacy groups such as the nonprofit Transportation Alternatives have developed different ways to highlight dangerous intersections in New York City. The Transportation Alternatives website, crashstat.com, lists the intersection at 33rd and Park as the most dangerous in the city; 163 people have been struck by motorists since 1996 at this location. Another dangerous intersection, according to crashstat.com, is at the Bowery and East Houston Street.

The city’s Department of Transportation has said that the website is out of date and that overall pedestrian accidents in the city are down by 37 percent. However, people who live near problem intersections, such as the students in the Bronx, are unlikely to be comforted by the city’s response, especially when it takes three years to get a No Standing sign.

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