Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and Erica Overton of her staff called to celebrate new pedestrian safety features at West 57th Street and 8th Avenue . A red arrow left turn signal protects pedestrians crossing W 57th Street to reach Central Park or the subway and a protected bike lane makes cycling uptown and to the park safer.
While we generally get excited about any safety improvement in the district, this one is special, coming after a 5 year battle. It warranted the presence of Ed Pincar, DOT commissioner for Manhattan, and Chris, the project manager. Stalwart neighborhood leaders Leslie Murphy of W55th, Anita McDonagh of W56th and Susan and Stu Lahn of W58th joined in the happy moment.
In 2014 , just after Vision Zero was adopted, DOT published the list of most dangerous intersections with W57/8th coming in first place in the City. Emboldened by the new program, in 2015 at Chekpeds’s urging, Manhattan Community Board 4 send two letters to DOT to address this intersection in priority. Assembly Member Rosenthal stepped up to the plate and agreed to help.
Thus started a relentless effort to get DOT to fix this intersection. Erica would call every month. In early 2016, DOT declined to make improvements based on a traffic study showing the turn lane queue would extend for multiple blocks. We asked to inspect the software results. No mention of pedestrians and safety.
In August 2017, CB4 asked that a bike lane be installed at Columbus Circle and extended south on 8th Avenue, with safety treatment at the intersection with W 57th street. The plan to install a bike lane was announced a few months later, and we reiterated that the safety standard for major intersections should apply. The turn lane was included in the plan and installed in 2019. Since then the throughput of turning cars has increased since they have a dedicated phase without conflicts with pedestrians, an estimate we had shared with the engineers at the time.
We are very fortunate that some at DOT have evolved . Still the next Mayor must further change DOT priorities and require the whole organization to put safety first.