By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — In order to reduce the high number of pedestrian fatalities on the East Side of Manhattan, the city should improve pedestrian crossings, build more bike infrastructure and enforce traffic vehicle violations, the group Transportation Alternatives reported in its East Side Action Plan.
While the East Side of Manhattan has only 8 percent of the city's population, it accounts for 11 percent of its crashes. The area is also more vulnerable to more pedestrian accidents because seniors make up 14 percent of the population, and the East Side also holds 22 percent of all the people who commute by foot and 13 percent of the people who commute by bike.
The intersection at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in East Harlem had the second highest number of crashes on the East Side with 96 from 1998 to 2008. Eighty of these were pedestrian injuries and one resulted in a fatality.
Because of that injury rate, Julia De Martini Day, director of transportation and health for Transportation Alternatives, asked Community Board 11 to submit a request to the Department of Transportation to study ways to make the intersection safer.
"The numbers are really staggering. We need to bring as many agencies as possible to work on improving the streetscape," said De Martini Day.
Using the city's Street Design Manual, De Martini Day said the groups could propose changes to the intersection. At 117th Street and Third Avenue, for example, there is a bike line, an exclusive bus lane, along with a turning lane. Bump-outs are used to shorten the length of the crosswalk.
"We want this to serve as a tool people can give out to say there is a way that the streets can be designed safer," De Martini Day said of the action plan.
Community Board 11 residents expressed concerns that parking be taken into consideration in any street redesign. Parking in the area is already tight, said board member Jose Altamirano.
He also said that pedestrian behavior needed to be addressed.
"People stand off the curb to cross the street. We jaywalk, we run through cars," said Altamirano.
At 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, plumber Jose Murano, 29, said he was often concerned for his safety.
"It's crazy over here. Cars don't care, people don't care," Murano said as he waited to cross the street. "I hope something can be done because I don't want to get hit by a car."