Donovan Richards Wants Safer Conditions at Deadly Rosedale Intersection

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the Queens intersection where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View
Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the intersection of Conduit Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

City Council Member Donovan Richards wants DOT to put speed cameras at the Rosedale intersection where a hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl earlier this month — a request the city may not be able to fulfill due to restrictions imposed by Albany. Richards also urged DOT to make physical improvements to protect people from speeding drivers.

Donovan Richards
Donovan Richards

Alexa Smith, 16, was crossing Conduit Avenue at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk just after midnight on February 11 when she was hit by the driver of a vehicle believed to be a dollar van. Her killer did not stop to summon help or render aid. Smith was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

South Conduit Avenue is a high-speed road slicing through RosedaleThe speed limit on the avenue is 40 miles per hour where it crosses Francis Lewis Boulevard. Drivers injure dozens of people every year at the triangle formed by Conduit Avenue, Francis Lewis Boulevard, and 243rd Street, according to DOT crash data.

Locals interviewed after Smith’s death told the press that reckless drivers make crossing the street a life-and-death proposition, a point repeated by Richards at a press event last Friday.

From the Times-Ledger:

Richards said he would call on the Department of Transportation to add speed cameras at the intersection, which would have helped identify the perpetrator of the accident. He said additional pedestrian safety measures have also been suggested to ensure that residents will no longer have to risk their lives to cross this busy intersection.

“As Vision Zero spreads a wider net of pedestrian safety across the city, we also need the Department of Transportation to look at dangerous intersections such as right here at Sunrise and Francis Lewis,” said Richards.

“This is why we need speed cameras to slow drivers down and to hold them accountable for when they break the law. We also need the DOT to look at pedestrian-focused crossing signals that will ensure that they can cross the street without having to worry about frantic drivers trying to beat the light,” he said.

Richards and Rosedale residents may have to take the speed camera fight to Albany. As it stands, random restrictions codified by state lawmakers limit the number of cameras New York City can use, where they can be placed, and when the city is allowed to turn them on and off. If there is no school in the immediate vicinity of where Smith was killed, state law would prohibit DOT from siting a speed camera there.

Transporation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are pushing state legislators to ease speed camera restrictions during this year’s session.

  • Jules1

    Thank you Councilman Richards. Richards has a good point, that aside from providing routine speed enforcement, speed cameras can help record the license plates of hit and run offenders.

    Is anyone in Albany listening?

  • Eric McClure

    Do speed cameras only trigger when someone eclipses the legal threshold, or do they record constantly? I’m not clear if a speed camera would’ve recorded this vehicle if the driver wasn’t exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph.

    Which leads to another question: does NYC have the legal right and authority to deploy cameras to collect Vision Zero data (and provide evidence in the event of a crash) if those cameras don’t issue tickets? We need better data if we’re ever going to achieve Vision Zero.

  • Jules1

    I believe they are like red-light cameras that are only triggered when a car travels above the speed limit. The average hit and run drivers probably isn’t concerned with the speed limit though, so there is a good chance it would be able to catch the driver who is breaking the law.

    The NYPD already has a network of general-purpose safety cameras that can not legally be used for issuing routine traffic violations, but could also be useful for finding hit and run drivers.

  • Andrew

    The restrictions in state law I believe are only on camera enforcement. If the city were to record other data from the cameras, I think that would be fine.

    Of particular interest to me: How many drivers are speeding by less than 10 mph? And how many drivers are speeding at times of day when the camera-based tickets can’t be issued? And even how much speeding takes place at selected locations that aren’t eligible for camera-based enforcement in the first place?

  • Eric McClure

    That would be my hope, and the data sets you outline would all be valuable. Knowing all of those things could lead to much more effective enforcement, inform street design, etc., etc., etc.

  • Joe R.

    Perhaps putting speed cameras in a lot more places, then publicly posting the license plate numbers of those caught on a public web site, might shame drivers into slowing down. Maybe NYC could even mail them an official looking notice which looks just like a speed camera violation, except it says something like “Had this camera been allowed to give fines, you would have received a fine of xx dollars.” When drivers start getting 20 or 30 of these in the mail each day, they might get the message. If nothing else, they might not speed just to stop the flood of paper.

  • Andrew

    I wonder why it isn’t being done (or is it?). If it doesn’t require additional cameras, I can’t imagine it costs much. Even if there’s a cost to manually validate each ticket before it’s issued, that isn’t needed here – just assume that the error rate is the same for the full data set as for the subset that’s ticketable.

  • Added this intersection to our dangerous pedestrian intersections database. badintersections.com

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