A smart traffic plan would be close to revolutionary for Roosevelt Island because we’ve never really had one. Cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians go it alone, navigating without guidance.
By David Stone
A smart traffic plan now
The need arose after a series of accidents brought the absence of any plan into sharp relief. After the third person in two months, this time a child, was hit by a car in a crosswalk, RIOC president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes email blasted a poorly thought out list of actions for addressing the problem.
Note: Although Haynes name was at the bottom, it’s unlikely that he wrote the buzz word saturated email. A high school English teacher would’ve tossed it back with notes in red. And if he did write it, he lacked the commitment to read it aloud in the voicemail alert. Worse yet, it was read by a female, underscoring its lack of sincerity.
The haste with which the advisory was written smacked of reactive public relations, an attempt at defusing community anger over at a Public Safety Department as ineffective and invisible as it is expensive for residents.
But after four decades, RIOC really has no plan and is motivated mainly by job security. Clear enough, residents must do it themselves, hoping for voluntary compliance to make it work. With a little luck, RIOC will follow along, but don’t bet on it.
Starting with bikes and scooters
As with most things, Roosevelt Island presents unique opportunities and challenges, and issues with bikes have been with us for a while. Adding electric power only made it worse.
But solutions are easy.
Because e-Bikes and e-Scooters have such clear advantages, they are here for good. They offer cheap transportation alternatives without adding much of a carbon footprint. Plus, for many, they’re fun.
For pedestrians, though, they’re a hazard because, like traditional bicycle riders, too many of those at the handlebars disregard rules set up for preventing accidents. The situation’s bad enough that some seniors fear going out because they fear being hit.
That’s a years long predicament as bikers routinely ignore stop signs and crosswalks, go any direction they like in traffic and scatter pedestrians on sidewalks. Now, add electric power, and you’ve got a volatile mix. Three people have died this year in New York City after colliding with e-Scooters alone. Statistics aren’t available, but many more were certainly injured.
Good citizenship means doing the right thing when you don’t have to. Clearly, Public Safety won’t consistently enforce anything. So, why not be good neighbors? Stop the selfish disregard of simple rules making walking around safer.
The thing about crosswalks and stop signs…
Joining the problem of broken down, bumpy road surfaces through the Main Street canyon is a ridiculous congestion of crosswalks and the stop signs that go with them. While crosswalks at Good Shepherd Plaza, in front of PS/IS 217 and where Main Street splits east and west make sense, most others are just obstacles without real value.
As evidence of poor or absent planning, the proliferation of crosswalks weakens their purpose. Expecting cars, trucks and bikes to repeatedly decelerate almost immediately after accelerating undermines trust that authorities know what they’re doing. No wonder the hiccupping through town induces violations.
Counting on RIOC for this makes it iffy, but let’s wipe out the excessive crosswalks.
And for God’s sake, rally against RIOC’s brainless plan for speed bumps. They’re the last thing we need, a few new hiccups in the already stop before you start obstacle course.
Smart traffic planning for the promenades
Let’s consider the dictionary definition. “Promenade: a paved public walk, typically one along a waterfront at a resort.“
A promenade is not a road; it’s a place for strolling on foot. That doesn’t preclude bicycling as long as the primary purpose of a promenade holds. Anyone riding must yield to pedestrians, not impatiently weave through them. If a bike rider can’t respect a pedestrians first thoroughfare, he or she must pedal elsewhere.
But even respecting that leaves gaps that probably can’t be fixed.
For example, when RIOC rammed its helix ramp and bike lane scheme through its ultra-passive board, to the tune of $5 million, the deep thinkers failed at seeing far beyond their noses. After a lonely twirl down the expensive new helix, a bicyclist arrives on the East Promenade.
While drinking in the scenic highlights of the Ravenswood power plant, he or she has two choices. Go north for a minute or two, reaching the point, just past the fire station, where the promenade becomes too narrow for bikes and pedestrians. Or go south. Prospects are brighter. A breezy stretch of a whole quarter-mile flies by before a rider hits a long stretch, starting at Blackwell Park, where it narrows too.
Public Safety, a couple of years back, posted tiny “Walk Your Bike” signs at either end of the narrowest sections. But we know how that went. Without any enforcement in place, bicyclists ignored the signs, and nothing changed.
If we want safe promenades where children can play and seniors can walk without fear, bike riders must stop dominating pedestrians with some form of assumed entitlement. And needless-to-say, electric and gas powered vehicles don’t belong there at all.
A smart traffic plan for Roosevelt Island clearly needs voluntary commitment by neighbors respecting each other. Some cooperation from RIOC helps, but their deaf ear to residents is an obstacle. Maybe some residents to whom RIOC still listens will jog the state agency’s awareness.
And while all these are starting points, they can be a foundation for real progress. A smart traffic plan means creating the best options for everyone while reducing conflicts.
What do you think?
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