Eyes on the Street: West End Avenue Gets Its Road Diet

West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson
West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson

After Cooper Stock and Jean Chambers were killed in West End Avenue crosswalks by turning drivers earlier this year, DOT unveiled a 35-block road diet for the dangerous Upper West Side street. Now, the plan is on the ground, and pedestrian islands are set to be installed within a month.

The redesign is a standard four- to three-lane road diet, slimming from two lanes in each direction to one lane per direction with center turn lanes. Bike lanes not included.

Streetsblog reader John Simpson sent in photos of the new street design on the ground between 85th and 86th Streets. The repaving and striping appears to be mostly complete.

Concrete pedestrian refuge islands are planned for 72nd, 79th, 95th, and 97th Streets. On Tuesday, DOT staff told the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee that islands will be installed at 95th and 97th Streets “within the month,” reports Emily Frost at DNAinfo. Islands at 72nd and 79th were added to the plan after complaints that the project didn’t include enough of them. Update: DOT says a pedestrian island at 72nd Street will be installed next year, while neckdowns will be built at 79th Street in the coming months as part of a Safe Routes to School program.

West End Avenue at 86th Street. Photo: John Simpson
West End Avenue at 86th Street. Photo: John Simpson

Some area residents say heavy traffic at 96th Street, primarily drivers going to the Henry Hudson Parkway, continue to pose a threat. At Tuesday’s meeting, one neighborhood mom requested NYPD officers at the location to direct traffic and ensure safe passage for pedestrians, Frost reports.

The new configuration on West End Avenue features an extra-wide parking lane, large enough to give more breathing room to cyclists or provide a space for double-parked cars. DOT has defended the layout, saying actual bike lanes might be installed later once people get used to the calmer street design.

  • Bob

    I say this every time the City makes this type of upgrade: I wish they would plant trees in the striped area, a la West St or Park Ave. More expensive, but it beautifies the streetscape, reduces stormwater runoff (less need to pay for sewer upgrades), and helps reduce the heat island effect.

  • BBnet3000

    I love the bit with the right/straight/left turn lanes only.
    Just tell Grandma biking to the store and the kids getting their training
    wheels off to “take primary position”.

  • R

    Good luck, people on bikes!

  • HamTech87

    I already used WEA a few nights ago in a completed section. Here’s what happened:

    I’m driving, and stopped at a light heading north. A driver pulls alongside me on the right in the, not sure what to call it, double parking lane. At the green, driver steps on gas and cuts in front of me.

    Effectively, this is still a two-lane northbound street. That driver couldn’t see whether a slow pedestrian was about to come in front of his/her car after walking eastbound in the crosswalk past my car. If there had been, we’d have another pedestrian casualty.

  • HamTech87

    @Bob: See this at 3:45…

  • JK

    Safe Routes to School? Do tell? What exactly is that? Could Streetsblog do an update on what exactly that program is to DOT these days?

  • Albert

    “Concrete pedestrian refuge islands are planned for 72nd, 79th, 95th, and 97th Streets.”

    Nice to know that slower pedestrians (elderly, disabled) “only” have to walk several blocks out of their way just to find a shorter and somewhat safer crosswalk. If, for example, they want to cross at 87th or 88th street, they’ll have to walk either down to 79th or up to 95th to find a crosswalk-shortening pedestrian island. That could be a 16-block round trip, meaning they won’t do it. They’ll cross right where they need to go, making the refuge islands irrelevant for them.

    Even on streets with protected bike lanes, half of the intersections contain no pedestrian islands (i.e., those intersections where the one-way streets allow cars to turn). This design should change in the next generation of bike lanes, and certainly in the next step on West End Avenue.

  • Bob

    Those are definitely great, but turning the entire striped area (the ones above are half-block long) into tree pits would be even better!

  • JK

    Maybe everyone assumes it’s obvious, but it needs saying that pedestrians and cyclists on West End Ave need the Move NY road pricing plan. A big problem here — and everywhere in Manh, West Bklyn, W Qns — is that DOT is still trying to accomodate peak hour driving and turning movements that would be much reduced by road pricing. There are a ton of cars going on and off the W Side Hwy at W 95th, 96th and 97th Streets, and those streets also go through Central Park to the East Side. Even with Vision Zero, DOT is stuck in a political balancing act of trying to increase safety without creating too many traffic problems, and the main issue is “processing” turning cars at intersections already busy with pedestrians. Pricing would reduce the number of vehicles, which would allow DOT to give more space and time to pedestrians and cyclists.

  • BBnet3000

    That extra striped area should be labeled “double parking” to get rid of any ambiguity.

  • Reader

    I’d add parking to that mix, too. Parking policy needs to evolve so that fewer people use the promise of free on-street storage as an excuse to keep a car they rarely use. Pricing curb space appropriately would also reduce the number of vehicles and would also allow DOT to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Ari_FS

    The city doesn’t like to do that because there wouldn’t be enough room to pass a double-parked vehicle. It’s true.

  • Danny G

    I kindly disagree. Generally, I’d rather see the city spend money on trees that you can enjoy the shade of than on trees that just look pretty in the middle of a pedestrian-inaccessible spot.

  • walks bikes drives

    If there is a turn lane in a bike lane, the other side of the street has an island.

  • BBnet3000

    This is a low cost upgrade using paint alone. To put in tree pits, etc would be a capital project, which are fewer and farther between.

    4th Ave in Brooklyn (which has had painted bulbouts for a long time) is slated to have a capital upgrade soon (soon meaning within the next half decade I suppose). Not sure if thats getting trees as the shallow subway underneath complicates that somewhat.

  • Cold Shoaler

    And DOT can use the standard second stripe of paint right next to the parked cars and some “cyclists” silhouettes to convey that designation to all NYC motorists. Oh well, shit “upgrade” for cyclists; hopefully this will mitigate the pedestrian carnage in the area. Good luck everyone.

  • Albert

    Yeah, I did overlook those islands on the other side of the street. But I still don’t think we should be requiring (or expecting) the elderly or disabled to walk ~30 yards out of their way (and make 2 extra street crossings in the process) just to reach the single pedestrian refuge island on “the other side of the street” that ostensibly exists for their benefit.

  • walks bikes drives

    I’m all for the split phase that that would require…

  • Albert

    Yes, I am too. On the 8th & 9th ave bike lanes that’s just what they have. But not on the 1st & 2nd ave lanes (except for major cross streets). The design on 8th & 9th is much safer for peds & cyclists both.

  • Niles

    I don’t understand why this minimal treatment stops at 72nd. There is PS 199 at 70th which already has some “Safe Route to Schools” treatments, and I am certain that the street South of 72nd is still just as dangerous.

  • G

    This behavior is really common on streets with bike lanes too, i.e. Grand Street in North Brooklyn and Bedford Ave in Central Brooklyn. All of NYC’s bike lanes should be converted to protected, separated bike lanes and then the only danger is pedestrians walking in them like the 8th Avenue bike lane. I’ll take that any day.

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