Our Town Second Avenue Crash-Way by Mary Kekatos
Taxi accidents are on the rise along Second Avenue in the subway construction zone
UPPER EAST SIDE Second Avenue has long been a cause of strife for New Yorkers on the East side. From restaurant owners losing profits due to subway construction to pedestrians being forced onto the street thanks to closed sidewalks, the avenue has been the source of no shortage of headaches.
Now, a new problem has come into focus: taxi accidents.
Over the course of the past three years, from January 2012 to May 2014, accidents involving taxicabs on Second Avenue between 59th Street and 96th Street have risen by approximately 45 percent, according to an Our Town analysis. While accidents totaled 96 for the five-month period from January to May in 2012, they rose to a startling 139 during the same period in 2014.
Undoubtedly, taxi drivers say that the cause for the rise in accidents is the construction. Joseph, who declined to give his last name, has been a taxi driver for over 20 years and he has noticed how much the construction has affected traffic.
“You have a lane, two lanes, out of commission so everyone’s scrunched together,” he said. “And when you’re all scrunched together, people are gonna crash. You can blame some of the accidents on just bad driving but I don’t think that most of them are because of that. Maybe if the construction lasted for one block you could blame it on poor driving, but it goes on for several blocks.”
As a sign of Second Avenue’s unique problems, accidents on other one-way avenues haven’t increased by as much. Over the five-month period on First and Third Avenues, between 59th and 96th Streets, accident totals reached 102 and 88, respectively, only an increase of 12.08 percent and 12.82 percent, respectively, since 2012. On the Upper West Side between 59th and 86th Streets, Amsterdam Avenue had a 40.63 percent increase, but with incidents increasing only from 32 to 45. While Columbus Avenue experienced over 100 percent increase in accidents, the number totaled 78 by May 2014.
The rise of accidents does not solely concern the taxi drivers. Residents also say they’re worried about the exponential rise.
“It’s scary to think that so many accidents could be occurring within such a short time,” said James Wagner, a Yorkville resident. “I guess when you have all this construction, and cars having to squeeze over, accidents are bound to happen. But I don’t want to feel like I could get hit every time I walk down the street.”
Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, said, “Every New Yorker should feel safe walking down the street, which is why traffic and safety issues are so important in our community,” he said. “Any trends that show collisions on the rise, from commercial or personal vehicles, must be closely watched by city government.”
Councilman Kallos urged residents to contact him via his web site if they are concerned about an unsafe intersection or a street issue they felt needed fixing.
And certain areas on Second Avenue have been subject to more accidents than others. The intersection of 86th Street and Second Avenue has had a large number of accidents within that five-month span of three years totaling at 24 accidents, the most of all the intersections (second only to 63rd and Second). One resident offered an alternative cause for the accidents at the intersection as opposed to construction.
“You’ve got the 86th-Lexington stop [on the 6 line] two blocks away,” Lori Peterson explained. “And 86th is a two-way street. So, you could have taxi cabs coming from picking up people at the station, and I’ve seen them drive like maniacs, and then boom – they crash.”
With the first phase of the subway to open in December 2016, taxi drivers hope that, if the construction is the cause, it will mean safer driving conditions and fewer accidents to go along with it.
“I just want to feel a little safer, and my passengers to feel safer, when I drive,” said Joseph. “Luckily, I haven’t had an accident in a few years, but I don’t want to start anytime soon.”
Accidents involving yellow cabs on Second Avenue per month
Intersections with the most accidents (2012-2014)