Dangerous Chelsea Intersection To Get DOT Safety Treatment

DOT plans to redesign the dangerous intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street to enhance pedestrian safety.
DOT plans to redesign the dangerous intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street to enhance pedestrian safety.

One of the city’s most dangerous intersections, in the middle of a neighborhood full of senior citizens, is due for a safety upgrade. As part of the city’s Safe Streets for Seniors program, NYC DOT will be installing new pedestrian refuge islands and a small “transit plaza” to the corner of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, along with more conflict-free crossing time for pedestrians [PDF].

The crowded intersection — with pedestrians headed to the 1 train and the senior-friendly Penn South co-op one block away — is badly in need of a safety upgrade. According to the DOT, it’s at the 99th percentile for severity-weighted injuries in the city. Between 2004 and 2008, an average of eleven people were injured in traffic crashes at the intersection each year. Two people died in traffic crashes at the intersection since 2004. Though the intersection already had some safety features, notably a leading pedestrian interval to give those on foot a head start crossing the street, with two very wide streets meeting it wasn’t enough.

“This is one of those intersections where you have two-way streets that are very dangerous for pedestrians,” said Christine Berthet of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. Berthet noted that DOT’s landmark pedestrian safety study singled out two-way arterial streets like 23rd as particularly dangerous for pedestrians.

Berthet said she is “really pleased” with the redesign. Prohibiting left turns off 23rd and creating a separate left-turn phase off Seventh, she said, would mean fewer and more predictable conflicts between turning cars and pedestrians. “I wish we could have that on 42nd Street,” said Berthet. Boosting the total amount of protected crossing time for pedestrians from 31 percent of a given light sequence to 39 percent should help too.

Pedestrian refuge islands should also help pedestrians cross Seventh and additional pedestrian space in the roadbed on the southeast corner of the intersection will open up a bit of space near the entrance to the subway. To make room for the safety improvements, four parking spaces and three commercial parking spaces will be removed.

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