Eyes on the Street: The Everyday Perils of Being an NYC Pedestrian

Pedestrians walk around a moving semi truck on a Broadway sidewalk in Inwood. Photos: Brad Aaron

Yesterday I observed the driver of this tanker truck do a U-turn at Broadway and 204th Street in order to pull up to a gas station.

I walk this intersection regularly, and you always have to be especially mindful of what drivers are doing on this corner, since it’s basically one big curb cut. Once the truck driver did his 180, he drove onto the sidewalk, then went back and forth until he was where he needed to be.

Granted, this guy seemed to know what he was doing, but he made a U-turn through at least three crosswalks — which as far as I can tell is illegal — and anyone who approached during this maneuver had to either stay back until he cleared the sidewalk or try to walk around the moving truck while watching for other vehicles. As the truck driver was taking up the sidewalk, at least one driver backed across the gas station lot, in my general direction, to get out of his way.

Over 200 New York City pedestrians were killed and nearly 4,700 were injured in collisions involving large trucks from 1994 to 2003. At least seven pedestrians have been killed by semi truck drivers in the past year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Broadway is a local truck route, and this particular truck — as it happens — was equipped with the required crossover mirror. This gas station is also half a block from an elementary school, and a block away from a junior high school.

A smaller truck could do this job. All I could think while watching this everyday event unfold is that trucks of this size, regardless of regulations, really have no place on NYC streets.

This truck is equipped with required crossover mirrors. Many trucks that travel through NYC neighborhoods are not.
  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I pretty much do whatever I can to avoid walking on Broadway. This block is also perpetually congested with people doubleparking while they stock up on booze from the PJ’s, which is just north of this gas station. So drivers around here are particularly antsy much of the time. As with many other intersections in the city, I often use the subway station to cross the street at the next block (207th). Last weekend, we saw a very old, semi-disabled man shuffling across 207th –he could only put one foot exactly in front of the other, so that his stride was the length of his foot. I was so relieved when I saw an outerboro cab pull him to pick him up — he never would have made it across Broadway at his pace.

    By the way (and this is not as off-topic as it will at first seem), I rode about 80 miles of T.A.’s NYC Century on Sunday. The first time I rode it, in 2011, it was pretty inspiring to see how far flung NYC’s bike infrastructure is. And it was inspiring again, and I enjoyed long stretches of the ride (partly because it was the first time I’ve done more than 30 miles on my road bike).

    At the same time, there were many horrid transitions and intersections — supposed pedestrian crossings (there are a few places you need to do this on the ride) — including one crossing near a highway exit with a blind curve barely 30 feet away so that you really just had to hope that you were picking the right time to cross (this was on the 100-mile route, somewhere in Queens). The bike lane across the Adobbo bridge was once more strewn with trash bags so that you had to ride against the outer edge of the lane next to freeway-speed traffic (I think the speed limit is 35, maybe 45, but do you think anyone obeys it? Neither do I.) It would never be acceptable to use a full traffic lane for cars for garbage pickup. Why is it OK for bike lanes?

    As much as I enjoyed the ride, I came away feeling that our infrastructure isn’t simply subpar. It’s actively murderous, designed to encourage psychopathy. Other Streetsblog readers may have already reached a similar conclusion, but it was a pretty sobering epiphany for me.

    (Sorry if this posts double — having disqus/cookie issues.)

  • Anonymous

    The cops love to park on the sidewalk too. Look at this jerk I saw today on Grand Street: https://twitter.com/pookasan/status/377818119898923008/photo/1

  • Anonymous

    I saw something worse this evening on St Nicholas Ave.: a driver of a big truck made a U-turn after running a red light; the U-turn involved climbing a sidewalk (not at a curb cut) and reversing through a crosswalk, all while interfering with traffic and without signaling. That’s at least half a dozen violations right there. I forgot to check for crossover mirrors.

  • Ana Garcia

    is there a particular bill pending that might address limiting/banning this size vehicle?

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