DOT to Daylight All Left Turns on Lexington Avenue in Midtown

Daylighting intersections by removing a parking space increases visibility, making it safer to cross the street. Image: ##

In last year’s landmark pedestrian safety study, the Department of Transportation found that three times as many crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve left turns as right turns. To respond to the heightened danger of left-turning vehicles, DOT promised in its action plan to “daylight” all left turns on a major Manhattan avenue, removing parking spaces near the intersection to improve visibility.

At a meeting of Manhattan CB 6’s transportation committee last night, DOT announced that it is ready to move forward with that plan, in a somewhat curtailed fashion, along a Midtown stretch of Lexington Avenue. Of all the one-way avenues in Manhattan, Lexington has the highest number of pedestrians hit by cars while crossing the street with the right-of-way, according to DOT. Two-thirds of those pedestrians were hit by drivers making a left turn.

The proposal would remove one or two parking spots near intersections on the east side of Lexington between 59th Street and 21st Street, a total of around 15 parking spaces.

DOT’s Matthew Roe explained why left turns are so much more dangerous and why daylighting is a particularly effective tool for this problem. “It has to do with the position of the driver,” he said. Because of the “A-pillar,” the part of the car frame between the windshield and the driver’s window, “the size of the blind spot is way larger on the left side of the vehicle than on the right side.” Daylighting the left turns lets the driver see any pedestrians in the crosswalk from farther away, before the left-side blind spot is an issue.

The plan raised some hackles among committee members. “This whole concept is a prelude for a further encroachment on parking spaces for cars,” argued committee chair Fred Arcaro. “Sooner or later you’re going to see a plaza here.”

When the committee voted on the project, however, it approved it 10-1. Most, apparently, agreed with committee member and left-turn crash victim Charles Buchwald, who called it “a simple and elegant solution to a real problem.”

  • NattyB

    We should totally Article 78 this.

    This is being done in an arbitrary and capricious manner. This has been done without any input from the community. We need to enjoin this lawlessness so we can save those 15 parking spots.

  • Let’s face it: These spaces will simply become de-facto loading/short-term-parking/screw-it-I’ll-risk-the-ticket zones. The answer is bollards during the pilot phase (I can take or leave DOT’s beige paint), and curb extensions once the new configuration becomes permanent and a capital project.

  • Rootboy

    “Sooner or later you’re going to see a plaza here.”

    This is hilarious.

  • Sure bollards would help it; so would some small greenery. Either way… it’s the right approach and should be done on pretty much every busy intersection. I’m sick of drivers clipping pedestrians and thinking ‘I didn’t see him’ is a valid excuse. Let’s make it an impossibility. Driving from point A to B should not involve tragic detours.

  • Suzanne

    “This whole concept is a prelude for a further encroachment on parking spaces for cars,”

    Because lord knows providing free real estate for drivers is more important than savings lives. This irresponsible elevation of pedestrian lives over parking is obviously further proof of the war on cars…

  • Mike

    Without physical barriers (or bike parking, or pop-up cafes, or neckdowns, or whatever), these will become placard parking and/or loading zones.

  • Glenn

    Arbitrary and Capricious! Fake data combined with a fait accompli. Parking not people!

  • Thank you and congratulations to the CB6 Transpo Committee. Fred Arcaro is only one member, and only one of two chairs, of that Committee. Most of the Committee has a serious appreciation for pedestrian safety.

  • ly

    this would be great — I was almost killed under exactly the circumstances that are being addressed here.

  • It would be more efficient not to completely take out such parking spaces but rather limit them to lower vehicles (no vans/SUVs) or even just for bicycles, motorcycles etc, as it are the higher vehicles that limit visibility.

  • Lauri Schindler

    @Douglas WIllinger – My sentiments exactly – lower vehicles and/or on street protected) bike racks would make this solution even better. There are many unsafe corners in Park Slope that could use to be daylighted, and they’re not all left turns. Vehicles traveling eastbound on many side streets that then turn right onto 6 Avenue, a narrow street, have very poor sight lines. I’m certain there are many other examples in every community.

  • I’m skeptical. It looks to me like a hack equivalent to the various safer-cars designs, which have consistently failed to reduce traffic accidents. In response to the safer intersections, drivers will just drive faster or pay less attention elsewhere. The marginal reduction from driving coming from less parking will probably save more lives than the daylit intersections.

  • Aron- we need safer designs rather then sticking our heads in the sand.

  • Okay, so plop a safer design on a street. And put safer cars on it, with all the latest gadgets. Drivers will react by driving faster or less responsibly. The only safe car or road is one that isn’t used. No matter what happens, deaths per vehicle-km would follow a constant trend; might as well cut the denominator.

  • Your idea then is just the status quo and keep the poor visibility.

    Alon, I think you spend way too much time in front of the computer writing about what you think you know about, yet fail to experiance.

    I suspect you would follow the pied pipers that would have us go back to ox carts.

  • I came here to say what Jeff said in comment #2.

  • tom

    Alon Levy: Check the play book: the official party line is never to admit to a war on cars. Shame on you!

  • Steve Mooney

    I’m with Alon. More visibility = faster turns, not safer drivers. You want safe left turns, you put in curb bulbs and raise the crosswalks.

  • Douglas, may I ask what personal experience would teach you about risk compensation?

  • Yes tom, it is a cute joke that there is an official party line.

  • mike

    Alon, do not engage Willinger. He’s a troll, and waste of your time.

    Ok, Streetsbloggers, can we get back to a productive discussion? Thanks.

  • Alon- I have both driven and walked extensively in Manhattan- the artcile makes a great deal of sense by advocating increased visibility/safety for all. High vehicles should not be allowed to park in such end spots which are better for low vehicles, including bicycles, motocycles etc.

    Obvioulsy there is an anti transportation contingent opposing such. They want to increase danger to punish people for moving.

  • Okay, so you’ve “driven and walked extensively,” and that makes you an expert on risk perception. Got it.

  • Reality mattters more then your limited computer moniter persepctive.

    So you would keep the poor visibility?

    IIRC you oppose seat belts, improved brakes and suspension; am I correct in presuming that you would oppose better mirrors so truck drivers see better?

  • Reality isn’t “Douglas Willinger’s anecdotes.” You probably haven’t seen evolution happen; it doesn’t mean it didn’t. It’s the same with risk perception.

    I have no idea about truck mirrors. The research I’m familiar with is about passenger cars, not trucks. The difference is that once you introduce professional drivers into the mix, psychology can become less important than professionalism and technology; Smeed’s law doesn’t apply to planes or mass transit, and I don’t know if it applies to trucks.

    My reaction to the left turn thing is meh – I don’t care whether they keep the spaces or not. What I think would be stupid is say the spaces work for some vehicles but not others, because it’s a recipe for abuse (“I thought my car was small enough”).

  • Vehicles can be given different classifications, e.g. we allow some vehicles to use parkways, while others can’t.

    If you care about pedestrian safety, would not you care about better mirrors?


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