Kallos Puts Out a Meek Report on Upper East Side Street Safety

The Upper East Side is full of dangerous intersections, and residents are clamoring for bus countdown clocks, benches, and bike racks, according to a two-part report released today by Council Member Ben Kallos [PDF 1, 2]. It’s not often a council member releases a report on livable streets, and Kallos should be commended for his interest. (DOT says it “has not received any similar reports from other elected officials.”) But the report amounts to a wish list of small fixes, with nary a recommendation to improve street design and enforcement in the neighborhood.

A new report from Ben Kallos on livable streets and traffic safety doesn't offer weighty recommendations on much of either.
A new report from Ben Kallos on livable streets and traffic safety doesn’t offer substantial recommendations on either topic.

Kallos’s staff combed through NYPD crash data, 115 survey responses, and input from the council member’s traffic safety forums and participatory budgeting meetings to come up with recommendations. The end result is more an index of day-to-day requests rather than a roadmap for livable streets.

The report identifies the district’s most dangerous streets, including those with recent fatalities. Second Avenue tops the list, with seven of the district’s 10 most collision-prone intersections. Despite pinpointing where people are getting injured and killed, the report only ventures to suggest adding more time to crossing signals, repainting crosswalks, repairing potholes, smoothing pavement, and improving rainwater drainage, among other changes. The need for safer street designs, including the one planned for Second Avenue after subway construction is complete, is never mentioned.

Kallos’s staff said they hope the report can inform DOT’s Vision Zero work, including the borough-wide pedestrian safety action plan expected to be released by the end of the year.

The report has a bit more to say about bus improvements, but not much. Kallos has allocated $640,000 for 32 countdown clocks at bus stops, a top request at participatory budgeting meetings. The report notes the demand for more service on the M15 Select Bus Service route, identifies the need to improve the M31, M72, and M98 crosstown routes, and recommends locations for new benches and bus shelters. It oddly omits the SBS upgrades planned for the M86 crosstown bus.

While the report recommends specific locations for bike racks, it’s equivocal on bike lanes: “Bike lanes have passionate support and opposition in the community, which is why the issue requires continuous conversation and communication between small businesses, residents and city government.”

Streetsblog asked which streets residents have prioritized for new bike lanes. “We didn’t receive specific suggestions for where individuals would like to see bike lanes expanded,” said Kallos spokesperson Sarah Anders.

In May, Kallos urged DOT to install more bike lanes on crosstown streets. During the campaign, Kallos called protected bike lanes “vital” to street safety efforts, but expressed concern about the purported “negative impact of bike lanes on small business and residents.”

Rather than devote much energy to substantial street redesigns that would improve safety, in office, Kallos has hosted a series of events where people can complain about cyclist behavior. Kallos hosted a bike lane forum in June, followed by a forum on commercial cyclists in July. On October 22, his office will host another forum, this time focused on NYPD’s bike enforcement.

The 19th Precinct, covering the Upper East Side, has a long history of targeting cyclists. The precinct issued only six speeding tickets in all of August, the latest month for which data is available [PDF].

This post’s third paragraph has been updated to more accurately describe the report’s recommendations.

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