Inept or Uncaring? Why Won’t RIOC Give Us Safe Crosswalks?

Inept or Uncaring? Why Won’t RIOC Give Us Safe Crosswalks?

The problem of safe crosswalks on Roosevelt Island was forced on me last week when I barely escaped being hit twice. And I witnessed a narrowly missed tragedy at the community’s most dangerous crosswalk, one routinely ignored by RIOC’s Public Safety Department.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Safe Crosswalks on Main Street

After a delivery bike fails to stop for a man entering the crosswalk, another among the plague of reckless Citi Bike pedlars weaves around him without stopping. This is the intersection where I was almost hit twice by cars cruising through without stopping.

The idea of crosswalks along Main Street on Roosevelt Island is constantly refuted by experience. In 2021 alone, three people, including a kid, were struck by cars on a short stretch of road. But although RIOC’s laggardly President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, under pressure, promised a traffic safety plan, none was ever created.

The same problems persist.

Roosevelt Island challenges drivers with unusual conditions. Accustomed to a city laid out with most four-way intersections, they find here a distracting layout. Buildings crowd the road on the east side, and on the west, there’s an open building pattern that sends people walking into crosswalks without intersections for guidance.

Also, many drivers are sightseeing, looking around at one of New York’s most unique vistas. Safe crosswalks demand that extra care go into increasing awareness and decreasing risk.

Which sign do you follow? This is the driver’s view at the crosswalk where I was almost hit. Multiple signs, one clearly contradictory and the largest, plus a worn-off street painting give drivers too much to manage. If RIOC and PSD are serious about public safety, how could they miss this?

But although $4 million dollars goes into a management heavy force of 40 or 50, none of that happens. In fact, one of the most troubling actions by the special patrolmen who fill PSD’s ranks is the habit of politely waving cars and trucks through crosswalks without stopping.

We don’t have traffic jams. So, why? Shouldn’t they encourage just the opposite?

Stop Signs Have a Purpose

Annoying for drivers who think they’re in too big a hurry for rules, stop signs have a clearly defined purpose. They order drivers to halt and look for pedestrians. It’s critical, but on Roosevelt Island, we pretend they don’t exist. Pedestrians and stop signs both.

Obscured sight lines and a near-total lack of enforcement make this the most hazardous crosswalk on Roosevelt Island. It’s directly across Main Street from Blackwell Park and its children’s playground.

After months of prodding, PSD finally placed small, excuse me stop signs in the middle of crosswalks. These may improve without actually insuring safe crosswalks, and there’s a reason.

A couple pop up right away.

  • PSD gives a free pass to eBikes and scooters at stop sign-protected crosswalks. They are giant hazards to, especially, slower-moving seniors and stroller moms and dads who can’t focus on whether traffic is playing safe.
  • Signage is dreadful, without cleaning up the mess, safe crosswalks are fanciful.
  • An alarming lack of awareness leaves the most dangerous crosswalk on Roosevelt Island out of the picture. Obstructed views, poor lighting and racing delivery bikes make the passage between 475 Main Street and Blackwell Park a death trap awaiting a victim.
A tragedy waiting to happen: Poor sight lines, children nearby, PSD negligence and scooters racing through a partially obscured stop sign: it’s a losing formula.

The Least Safe Crosswalk

What makes this hazardous crosswalk much worse is that it’s where children run or are escorted into Blackwell Park.

Last week, as I walked away from the park, I saw what looked like a Yamaha SMAX Scooter blow by within less than a foot of a woman carrying her dog. “Sorry!” he yelled over his shoulder.

If RIOC’s Public Safety Department doesn’t help us with safe crosswalks soon, someone is going to be a whole lot sorrier.

Hope for Safe Sidewalks

It’s the exception, not the rule, but some two-wheeler riders do stop when they should and look around for pedestrians before moving on. It was refreshing to see. If these guys can do it, why not the others?

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