Community Group Says DOT Plan Won't Improve Safety on Riverside Boulevard

By Leslie Albrecht on July 21, 2011 9:26am 

Riverside Boulevard near West 72nd Street.
Riverside Boulevard near West 72nd Street.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — A city plan to improve safety on a street where residents have long complained of speeding drivers and dangerous conditions doesn't go far enough, says an Upper West Side advocacy group.

The nonprofit Coalition for a Livable West Side says a Department of Transportation safety plan for Riverside Boulevard — the street that fronts a string of luxury high-rises overlooking the Hudson River — falls short of protecting pedestrians.

Residents have been fighting for years to get traffic lights on Riverside Boulevard, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway from West 64th to 72nd street. They say motorists barrel down the street, blowing through stop signs and endangering locals, including kids at Woodside Preschool.

The street, perched next to an entrance to Riverside Park South, is also used by joggers and moms with strollers headed to the park.

DOT unveiled new safety measures for the street in May, but said traffic signals weren't needed, because a city study showed "little or no speeding" on Riverside Boulevard where the speed limit is 30 miles-per-hour.

Instead, DOT suggested a host of other upgrades, including a special parking zone for the limousines that line up on the street each morning to ferry residents to their offices. Many of them illegally double and triple park, slowing traffic and creating safety hazards.

To help put the brakes on flying drivers, DOT wants to paint a center median strip on the street and make new markings for the parking lane.

The Coalition for a Livable West Side says DOT's plan "short changes" residents and visitors to Riverside Boulevard.

"The DOT should be embarrassed in trying to pass off striped lines on the pavement as a traffic calming measure," wrote consultant Amy Pfieffer in a critique of the DOT's safety plan that was commissioned by the Coalition.

"Visually narrowing a street with striped lines may or may not have any influence on motorist speed, and certainly plays little to no role in pedestrian safety."

Pfieffer told DNAinfo that many of the hazards on Riverside Boulevard stem from the large number of for-hire vehicles in the area.

"If a car is driven by someone who lives on the street, they’re typically driving much safer, as opposed to someone who’s being paid to get from Pouint A to Point B very quickly," Pfeiffer said.

The Coalition's report suggests using speed bumps to slow motorists near Woodside Preschool, and installing "temporary traffic control devices" — flashing lights to caution drivers to slow down — at the entrance to Riverside Park South at West 68th Street.

The Coalition also wants a traffic control device at the new intersection of Riverside Boulevard, West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. The long-delayed intersection hasn't opened yet, but locals worry that when it finally does, the increased traffic will bring even more safety problems to Riverside Boulevard.

A DOT spokesman said speed bumps can't be used on Riverside Boulevard because part of the street is a bus route, and because there's no speeding elsewhere on the street. He added that a stop sign will control traffic at the the main entrance into the park.

As for the concerns over the new connection between Riverside Boulevard, Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street, the spokesman said DOT will "monitor conditions" along the boulevard once the connection is complete.

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