New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Our Town Safer East Side streets by Michael Garofalo

Safer East Side streets



    Traffic collisions involving cyclists on the East Side have trended downward in recent years even as ridership has increased. Photo: Steven Strasser


    Graphic courtesy of Office of Ben Kallos


East Side pedestrians and cyclists are making strides in street safety, according to an analysis of NYPD collision data covering East Side zip codes from 26th to 96th Streets performed by the offices of East Side City Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers.

Pedestrians have seen the most significant safety improvements, with injuries dropping in each successive year since 2013. So far in 2018, 347 pedestrians have suffered injuries in collisions, down from 632 in 2013,

The 281 collisions involving cyclists so far in 2018 are roughly flat in comparison with last year’s total of 283, but both figures represent a significant decline from the 2015 and 2016 bike collision totals of 380 and 352, respectively.

To date, four pedestrians have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles in 2018, including an 84-year-old woman who was struck and killed on a sidewalk near 79th Street and Madison Avenue Oct. 5 by a vehicle that jumped a curb. Since July 2012, 42 pedestrians have been killed and 3,195 have been injured in collisions with motor vehicles on the East Side. There were zero cyclist fatalities on the East Side over the same period.

Motor vehicles remain the greatest cause of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists alike. Of the 347 pedestrians injured on the East Side so far in 2018, just 13 were hurt in collisions caused by cyclists.

Kallos attributed recent declines in injuries to pedestrians and cyclists to improvements in street infrastructure and increased enforcement and education efforts. “What it shows is when you do the right thing and continue to do the right thing, it has a positive impact,” he said.

In recent years, the Department of Transportation has worked to install new curb extensions and pedestrian islands on Upper East Side Streets, adjusted traffic signals at key intersections to give pedestrians additional time to cross ahead of turning vehicles, and opened a new protected bike lane on Second Avenue.

“I still see cyclists going the wrong way in bike lanes, but far fewer than when we only had the bike lane on First Avenue,” Kallos said.

Safety improvements to East Side streets are set to continue in 2019, with plans to expand protections to the Second Avenue bike lane between 68th and 59th Streets and create a new bike and pedestrian crossing at the dangerous Queensboro Bridge intersection at 59th Street and Second Avenue.

“The best way we can protect everyone is by giving every type of vehicle its own space,” Kallos said. “Pedestrians have the sidewalk, cars have the street and bikes should have a bike lane, and that way everyone has a place to stay safe.”

In October, Deputy Inspector Kathleen Walsh, commanding officer of the NYPD’s 19th Precinct, which covers the Upper East Side from 59th to 96th Streets, announced that the precinct would assign a new bike-mounted safety officer to patrol the neighborhood’s streets and bike lanes. The new position was created to focus on promoting safety for bikers and pedestrians and conduct enforcement against both drivers and cyclists that violate traffic laws.

“Having an officer focused on bike lanes will mean fewer vehicles blocking the bike lane and more people obeying the law,” Kallos said, adding, “We hear so much in the 17th and 19th Precincts about bike safety issues, and the commanding officers are responding to concerns and are doing more than I think anywhere else in the city.”

Kallos and Powers have partnered with the DOT and Bike New York to sponsor bike safety training sessions. Kallos praised the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association for conducting its third annual survey of local businesses’ bicycle delivery practices, including whether delivery riders use illegal electric bikes or wear helmets and vests with identification. As of October, police with the 17th and 19th Precincts had confiscated 81 e-bikes this year.

Even as the number of annual bike trips taken by New Yorkers has more than doubled since 2006, the rate at which cyclists are killed and severely injured has dropped precipitously, according to citywide data collected by the DOT. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Nov. 29 an expansion of Citi Bike that will double the bike share system’s service area and triple the number of Citi Bikes on New York streets over the next five years.


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