Pedestrians Plead for Traffic Fixes at Riverside Drive Intersection

By Lindsay Armstrong on August 21, 2014 8:53am 

 Residents said 157th Street at Riverside Drive is a dangerous spot for pedestrians to cross the street.
Residents said 157th Street at Riverside Drive is a dangerous spot for pedestrians to cross the street.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The lack of signals at a busy intersection where cars speed along a curvy stretch of Riverside Drive is forcing pedestrians to wade into traffic to cross the street — concerning locals who for years have pleaded for improvements at the accident-prone corner.

West 157th Street is a popular place for pedestrians to cross the section of Riverside Drive, which branches off of Riverside Drive West at 155th Street and juts into the neighborhood, due to its proximity to a nearby subway station.

However, there is no traffic signal or crosswalk at the corner, meaning it's "only a matter of time" before disaster strikes, residents said.

“People just come up [from Riverside Drive] really fast and there’s nothing to hinder them,” said nurse Orsa Alicea, 54.

According to NYPD data, there have been five accidents at the intersection since July 2012. In one case, a motorist was injured in an accident in January 2013, while a pedestrian was injured by a driver in the same spot a year later.

The data did not provide specifics on the accidents or show how serious the injuries were. There was not specific information available about the other three accidents. 

The intersection is a common crossing spot for jaywalkers because there is a subway entrance located at 157th Street and Broadway, about a block away, locals said.

Maria Luna, a local political leader and member of Community Board 12, said she contacted the Department of Transportation and started attending transportation committee meetings to call attention to this and other nearby intersections about four years ago. She was told by both the board and the department to call 311 to complain, but hasn’t seen any changes, she noted.

“They have said that if they put in a traffic light there, it will mess up the light at 158th Street,” said Luna of a conversation with the DOT regarding adding a traffic signal at 157th Street.

Residents would like to see a stop sign or traffic light at 157th Street for cars traveling on Riverside Drive, along with a crosswalk. Currently, there is no crosswalk on the stretch of Riverside Drive from 155th to 158th streets. 

They noted that the layout of Riverside Drive adds to the danger for those trying to cross the street. 

“Because of this curve here, cars really can’t see us,” said Mr. Monroe, an eight-year resident of the neighborhood who would not give his first name. “We’d like a light, but we at least need a stop sign.”

Other residents said they have been asking for more traffic signals, or at least some signage, in the area for years.

“Cars that turn off into the neighborhood [on Riverside Drive] are still in that speed mode,” said Sandra Robinson, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years. “We’re lucky that there hasn’t been a major accident, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time.”

The DOT installed two stop signs near West 156th Street on Riverside Drive in 2007 in an effort to reduce drivers’ speed. However, locals claimed motorists often ignore one of the signs because it’s placed in a hard-to-notice spot.

A DOT spokeswoman said the agency did conduct a traffic study at the intersection in August 2013. The agency examined multiple factors, including vehicle and pedestrian volumes, crash history and speeding, she explained. However, the agency found the intersection did not meet federal guidelines for a traffic signal or multi-way stop control.

The DOT did not respond to a request for an explanation as to why the intersection did not meet the standard.

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