A proposal for safety improvements on the Upper West Side might have prevented the crash that killed a pedestrian Thursday, but the plan was not acted upon by Community Board 7 or DOT.
At approximately 11 a.m. yesterday a 50-year-old motorist turning left from W. 95th Street onto West End Avenue struck Jean Chambers in the crosswalk, knocking her underneath the Ford SUV he was driving, according to reports.
“She had the walk sign and the light was green for the car too,” said doorman Bilbil Loka, 32, who witnessed the accident from his post at 710 West End Ave. “But the driver made a very short left turn, going uptown.”
“He dragged her for almost 30 feet, everybody heard her scream.”
Chambers, an artist who lived nearby, was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. She was 61.
The intersection where Chambers was killed was one of a number of Upper West Side crossings included in a 2013 pedestrian safety study by consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard [PDF]. The study was commissioned by local City Council members, but Community Board 7 sat on the report’s recommendations until a series of pedestrian deaths this year spurred residents to demand action from the city.
Following the deaths of Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee — all killed by drivers within the study area last January — DOT added pedestrian space and turn restrictions at Broadway and W. 96th Street, where Lee was struck.
Plans for other intersections remain on the shelf, despite known hazards to pedestrians. The study, for example, describes conditions that led to the crash that killed Jean Chambers: “vehicles turn left northbound from W 95 St onto West End Ave at wide angles and high speeds, creating pedestrian conflicts.”
In the wake of the fourth pedestrian fatality in the same immediate area this year, DOT says it may give pedestrians more crossing time at the intersection where yesterday’s crash occurred, will institute a left turn ban there for 10 hours a week, and is considering a new speed bump.
To slow drivers down, Nelson\Nygaard recommends more substantial changes, including curb extensions, pedestrian islands, and banning left turns.
We asked DOT via email if the agency has reviewed the Nelson\Nygaard proposals, and if pedestrian improvements are planned for W. 95th Street and West End Avenue or other area intersections. A DOT spokesperson replied:
Safety is our first priority and we currently have a study underway on the feasibility of installing a leading pedestrian interval to give pedestrians dedicated time to cross the street. As you may know, there is one speed bump on that block of W. 95th Street, and we will look into the possibility of installing a second. (The speed limit on that that portion of the roadway is 15 miles per hour.) We will also be installing a turn restriction from eastbound 95th to northbound West End between 7-9 am Monday to Friday, and will also look into other possibilities in consultation with the community and local stakeholders.
Motorists have killed at least five pedestrians in the study area in the last 13 months. All five crashes occurred in the 24th Precinct. As of May, precinct officers have ticketed 325 drivers this year for failing to yield to pedestrians, and 117 drivers for speeding.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is investigating Thursday’s crash, sources said. The Daily News reported today that, though Chambers presumably had the right of way, according to anonymous police sources the driver “is not expected to be charged with a crime.”
A city law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way will take effect in August.