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City Unveils Plan for Pedestrian Safety Improvements on UES

By DNAinfo Staff on November 22, 2013 9:26am

 A map detailing pedestrian crashes involving seniors in Yorkville from 2006 to 2010.
A map detailing pedestrian crashes involving seniors in Yorkville from 2006 to 2010.
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NYC Department of Transporation

By Lindsay Armstrong

Special to DNAinfo New York

UPPER EAST SIDE — The city has introduced a plan to make streets safer for elderly pedestrians in Yorkville by shortening crosswalks and adding pedestrian islands.

According to a proposal that was presented to Community Board 8 earlier this month, the plan would shorten the crossing distances at three intersections on Third and York avenues, create a pedestrian safety island on 86th Street between York and First avenues, and ban left turns from 86th Street onto Lexington Avenue.

The three intersections proposed for shortened crossing distances are 83rd Street at Third Avenue, and 79th and 82nd streets at York Avenue.

A 2011 report by the advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives found that almost 5,000 people were injured by motor vehicles between 1995 and 2005 in Community District 8, making it one of five districts citywide with the largest concentration of these injuries.

At 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, where the left-turn ban would take effect, 19 pedestrians were hit while crossing there between 2007 and 2011, according to the DOT.

The safety improvements are part of an ongoing DOT initiative known as “Safe Streets for Seniors.” The older population, defined by Transportation Alternatives as residents 60 and older, make up 20 percent of the district — the highest of any neighborhood in Manhattan.

Recent improvements in the area have included extending crossing times at 21 intersections to accommodate slower walkers, installing countdown signals and repairing broken curb cuts at several corners, the agency added.

The chairman of Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee, A. Scott Falk, said residents have already responded well to the initial improvements.

“The countdown timers are very popular,” he said. “I’ve never heard any negative feedback about them in our district, and I hear complaints about lots of different things.”

The plan will alter parking and traffic patterns, with some parking spaces set to be eliminated at the shortened intersections. It was not addressed in the report how traffic would be impacted as a result of drivers not being able to turn left from 86th Street onto Lexington Avenue.

The DOT recommended using Second Avenue as an alternate southbound route to Lexington Avenue, and East 79th Street as the alternate westbound route to 86th Street.

“It is great news that CB8 is finally going to see street design changes that will make walking safer for seniors, and for all residents,” said Caroline Samponaro, director of Campaigns and Organizing at Transportation Alternatives. “New York City is the worlds greatest city for walking, and that should hold true for New Yorkers of all ages and abilities.”

Since 2008, the DOT has worked in 25 high-risk areas across the city to address pedestrian safety. In that time, the annual number of senior pedestrian deaths fell by 19 percent, from 58 in 2008 to 48 in 2012, the agency said.

Community Board 8 plans to vote on the new proposal in January in order to give residents time to offer feedback on the specific changes outlined in the plan.