Take it back to the drawing board!
A Bronx panel on Thursday night rejected a Department of Transportation plan to reduce dangerous Riverdale Avenue by one lane, as well as install and other traffic-calming measures, in a controversial vote 3-2.
A majority of the Bronx Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee opposed the DOT’s proposed 0.75-mile “road plan,” which would provide similar treatment to the one it has successfully installed in the Bronx on Morris Park Ave.
But the citizens’ panel was only reflecting the will of many participants in the online meeting, who spoke out vehemently against the proposal, including a comment that requiring drivers to drive more slowly on the highway-like stretch between W. 254th and W. 263rd streets would cause bottlenecks and were a “disaster in the making!”
“People are going to die! said another commenter, saying he understood traffic solutions better than DOT engineers.
The DOT plan, which is similar to those that have worked well across the country as well as in the Bronx, would tame the current 60-foot-wide road by redesigning its 11-foot taxiway and 19-foot combined drive/parking lot. feet lane in a nine-foot parking lane with a five-foot painted bike lane along it, then an 11-foot traffic lane. This would add a swing bay that would become a median where there are no intersections, from West 254th Street to West 263rd Street.
See diagram below:
The committee’s vote, which is advisory only, closely followed the recommendations of two local elected officials, council member Eric Dinowitz and his father, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Both Dinowitzes have been advocating for years for left turn signals at two intersections of the six-lane highway, which they say was a superior solution to the turn pads offered by the DOT.
It was kind of a “chicken and egg” argument: A DOT representative at the meeting, Keith Kalb, told the meeting that such signals were not feasible given the current setup. of the road, but could be once the turn pads are installed…if the road diet goes ahead.
However, nothing the DOT said deterred naysayers that the road diet would do anything but slow ride times. Indeed, audience members online scoffed when the agency presented statistics from three other similar projects in the Bronx – Burke Avenue, Baychester Avenue and Morris Park Avenue – which showed injury reductions of 47% , 22% and 37%, respectively.
And Executive Director of the Morris Park Business Improvement District, Camelia Tepelus, went into the lion’s den to debunk another myth that road diets hurt local businesses – an argument that fueled a failed lawsuit against the Morris Park effort in 2019.
“The redesign had a positive economic impact,” she said, calling it a “lifesaver for businesses” during the pandemic.
“The road diets stand the test of time, having been implemented by transportation agencies for more than three decades,” according to the Federal Highway Administration’s website. “One of the first installations of a road diet was in 1979 in Billings, Montana. Road diets grew in popularity in the 1990s. Cities including Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Seattle, have also opted for the positive impact that road diets bring to their communities.
The need for traffic calming and better security is pressing in this surprisingly deadly area of the Bronx. Riverdale Avenue – which begins in Kingsbridge and winds “up the hill” to Riverdale before disappearing under Henry Hudson Drive and reappearing to the north – has seen notable instances of road rage, including spectacular crashes with hit-and-runs and deaths, such as the one in 2010 that claimed the life of a 26-year-old man. The stretch between West 254th and West 263rd streets passes PS 81 and Salanter-Akiba-Riverdale High School as well as the Skyview Mall, a hangout for local kids with an ice cream parlor, pizzeria, and other attractions. The stretch sports several, including a bagel shop, steakhouse, and deli. Five MTA bus lines terminate at the city line.
The area is also home to around 6,500 children and 7,000 elderly people – and it is the latter who bear the brunt of road violence on the main avenue. According to the DOT presentation, two elderly people have been mowed down by motorists since 2015, while one motorist died. Sixty-six people were injured during the period, including 26 pedestrians. Most collisions involving pedestrians (55%) occurred when pedestrians were crossing with the signal in their favour, and most (58%) when motorists were turning left.
“The biggest issues the treatment is addressing are speeding and accident complaints,” said DOT Representative Alicia Posner, who added that the department naturally “provided treatment to reduce speeding. speeding and accidents”, even if the participants were only worried about congestion.
Area council District 11, meanwhile, has had 14,244 reported crashes over the past five years, which have killed 14 motorists and 11 pedestrians and injured 4,533 people, according to city data. That’s an average of nearly eight crashes a day, more than neighboring District 14 (13,999 over the same period), a much denser urban area that encompasses part of crash-magnet Fordham Road .
The idea of a cycle path was particularly unpopular.
“Riverdale Avenue is too busy a road to have cycle lanes,” said committee member Mary Ellen Gibbs, as if the lack of a lane could somehow reduce the growing number of cyclists – especially the delivery cyclists who use it when working for restaurants in the area. . The idea that cyclists might need a safe space to ride didn’t seem worth discussing. The idea that children could cycle to PS 81 – a sincere hope voiced by committee member David Gellman – was dismissed out of hand.
“There’s one accident a month,” Gellman said, advocating for “a safe cycling route.”
His plea did not sway Gibbs. “People on bikes are going to be fair game,” she said, insisting that motorists would invade the proposed bike path (although it’s clear that Gibbs was not advocating a protected bike path).
A letter from a bagel shop owner who was concerned about ‘reduced parking’ was read aloud by a board member, who held it up as evidence that local merchants weren’t supporting not the road diet. Likewise, a letter from the pastor of Santa Margarita de Cortona, a church along the road, expressed his displeasure that the road regime could prevent the exit from the parking lot. Kalb assured the group that the DOT plan was formulated with “least parking impact on the community” in mind and that it was “not necessarily a bicycling project.”
Committee chair Debra Travis tried valiantly to keep the discussion civil, but the animosity seemed to give DOT pause, which said it planned to start the project this summer. It wouldn’t be the first time the department has balked at CB8’s fierce backlash: In 2018, it scuttled a rush-hour bus lane project on Broadway after a similar reception. The Dinowitzes also objected to that one. Other examples abound: CB members, after approving improved crosswalks on a local residential street, Hudson Manor Terrace, backtracked in fury when residents complained they had lost their parking spaces.
Said Kalb: “We appreciate your comments.”
We don’t know what will happen next. After the contentious meeting, a DOT spokesperson sent a statement:
Our proposal is still under consideration. DOT appreciates feedback from the Bronx Community Board 8 Traffic and Transportation Committee on proposed safety improvements on Riverdale Avenue. DOT plans to review the feedback and comments received, as well as continue outreach and discussion with community members and stakeholders.