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Locals Plead for Traffic Light Changes on 'Terrifying' Amsterdam Ave.

By Emily Frost | September 25, 2013 3:28pm
 Residents called for changing the traffic light pattern so that it no longer favored speeding cars. 
Amsterdam Avenue Traffic Lights
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Local leaders plan to lobby the city to change traffic light times on Amsterdam Avenue amid pleas from pedestrians and cyclists to address the "terrifying" situation on the busy thoroughfare.

Community Board 7's Transportation Committee agreed Tuesday night to ask the Department of Transportation to change the timing of the lights to slow speeding cars and trucks, a proposal it will officially present to the community at its next meeting on Oct. 8. 

"If you time the lights right you can go from 60th Street to 108th Street, and maybe you’ll hit a light once," Andrew Albert, the co-chair of the committee, said of his experience of driving along the avenue. "If you really want to make Amsterdam Avenue safer, you have to change the timing of the lights."

The street has seen nearly 1,000 traffic-related fatalities and injuries between 1995 and 2009, according to statistics compiled by Transportation Alternatives from Crashstat.org. By comparison, Central Park West, the northbound side of Broadway and West End Avenue all had fewer than 600, the stats showed.

"It is like a highway. The lights are synchronized," resident Gretchen Berger said at the meeting.

Others said the four-lane road's dangerous conditions, with trucks barreling up the northbound side and cabs jockeying for the fastest lane, keep them off the avenue completely.

"Amsterdam right now is terrifying… which means I miss out on seeing a lot of local businesses," said cyclist Liz Dean, who manages Irving Farm Coffee on West 79th Street.

Others said the width of the avenue makes it difficult for older people and kids to cross.

Many, including local resident David Foell, described a culture of speeding along the avenue.

"I would suggest to the board that you try to address the wild driving that occurs on that avenue," he said. 

A majority of the residents assembled Tuesday night are in favor of a bike lane along the avenue that would eliminate an entire lane of traffic, thereby improving safety conditions for pedestrians, they said.

The new bike lane is something advocates have been pushing for since July, and comes after a months-long fight for the Columbus Avenue bike lane and its extension.

Along with addressing the light pattern, the committee agreed it would also include a proposal for creating a "complete street" on Amsterdam Avenue that could entail adding a bike lane, extending curbs, and creating other changes that make conditions better for pedestrians. 

"DOT will review any request on this that we receive from the Community Board," said DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera.

A DOT spokesman said the agency would review any request by the community board.