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Bronx Teens Win Ped Safety Improvement After Three Years of Activism

4:17 PM EDT on April 24, 2012

New signs keep parked cars away from the corner of E. 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue (though drivers are still getting adjusted to the new rule, as seen on the left) and sight lines clear, thanks to the sustained activism of the Bronx Helpers.

Thanks to three years of dedicated activism from middle- and high-school students, one Bronx intersection is getting a little bit safer. The Bronx Helpers, a community service organization run by the New Settlement Apartments, has successfully lobbied the city to daylight the dangerous corner of E. 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue.

Until last week, drivers headed down E. 172nd, a hilly street without a stop sign or traffic light at this corner, had poor visibility of pedestrians crossing the street. "You couldn't see the cars as a pedestrian, and the cars couldn't see you," said Molly Berman, the lead facilitator for the Bronx Helpers. Daylighting, the practice of removing parking near an intersection, improves sight lines and helps prevent crashes.

Winning this safety improvement is an impressive show of activist energy from the Bronx teens. They started by fighting for a stop sign at the corner and quickly collected over 1,000 signatures in support. After DOT rejected the stop sign request, they researched more effective physical traffic calming measures. Last November, group members convinced the Bronx borough commissioner to come to their neighborhood and look around. Changes to the intersection resulted from that visit, said Berman.

This doesn't mark the end of the Bronx Helpers' work on pedestrian safety. The group applied for a neighborhood slow zone this February, and members are hopeful their Mt. Eden area will be selected. Berman said the group is waiting to hear about the slow zone before deciding what improvements to vie for next.

For now, the kids are celebrating the safety gains they've already made. A block party on Townsend is scheduled for May 15. "They were excited. We all took this as a victory," said Berman. "They know that this happened because of the work that they did."

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