The New York City Parking Rule That Makes Intersections More Dangerous

Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron
Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron

We’ve reported before how certain New York City parking rules are designed to cram a little more free car storage onto the street at the expense of pedestrian safety. In 2009, DOT removed parking restrictions on unmarked crosswalks at T intersections, and the city allows drivers with disability permits to block curb ramps that were intended to help pedestrians with disabilities cross the street.

Here’s another example of how the city prioritizes parking over life and limb. This photo shows Seaman Avenue in Inwood where it intersects with Isham Street at the entrance to Inwood Hill Park. For at least five days this SUV was parked right at the edge of this crosswalk, blocking sight lines for pedestrians as well as drivers turning right from Seaman onto Isham.

Parking right up against the crosswalk is dangerous enough that some states and cities, including New Jersey and Portland, forbid it. Drivers hurt and kill thousands of people in New York City crosswalks every year, and most victims are crossing with the signal. Poor visibility at intersections contributes to the problem, but NYC law makes it perfectly legal to obstruct sight lines with parked cars.

A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.
A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.

NACTO guidelines suggest 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks. New York City law, however, only prohibits parking within a crosswalk itself (unmarked crosswalks at T intersections excepted, of course). By allowing motorists to park where their vehicles reduce visibility at intersections, this city traffic rule is in direct conflict with the city’s Vision Zero goals.

The fix is simple. This month Vincent Gentile revived an effort by his City Council colleague David Greenfield to have the city paint curbs so drivers don’t get tickets for parking too close to fire hydrants. If Gentile and Greenfield are as concerned about pedestrian safety as they are about protecting drivers from citations, they could introduce legislation to prohibit parking near intersections. Such a rule change would daylight intersections citywide and, if properly enforced, reduce the likelihood of collisions by making it easier for motorists and pedestrians to see each other.

Daylighted corners can be painted, protected with flex-posts, or used for bike parking. Below are examples of intersections that were made safer by the removal of a few parking spots.

A flex-post protected corner in Hoboken. Photo: Planetizen
A flex-post protected corner in Hoboken. Photo: Planetizen
A partially daylighted corner in the Inwood Slow Zone. Image: Google Maps
A partially daylighted corner in the Inwood Slow Zone. Image: Google Maps
  • I assumed all states banned parking within 10 feet of an intersection. Many do 15 or 20.

    Aside from visibility and pedestrian safety, theres also the commerce angle. Parking near intersections makes it much harder for delivery vehicles to make their turns, and they can get stuck.

    New Brunswick, in New Jersey, has been deploying those orange posts at dozens of intersections
    http://togethernorthjersey.com/?p=17053

    Some have been upgraded to work as bike parking too

    http://njbikeped.org/new-brunswick-begins-introducing-on-street-parking-corrals/

  • Sent this to NY Assembly member Denny Farrell, who complained to Mayor de Blasio this week about the hazard of pedestrians waiting off the curb to cross…not that that has anything to do with pedestrians being run over in crosswalks.

  • Ari_FS

    While I support this in theory, imagine the uproar (from drivers and the tabloids) if this got serious consideration. You’re talking about removing thousands of parking spots in one fell swoop (or tens of thousands).

    I think a more prudent approach is aggressively using daylighting as a tool whenever changes are being considered, or where daylighting is an obvious fix.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve experienced this problem locally. School buses park overnight in front of the local school in the spot right next to the crosswalk. This makes seeing cars coming down 164th Street impossible until you’re far enough out so they can hit you. Moreover, it totally blocks the view of people crossing from turning vehicles. NYC should prohibit parking within at least 25 feet of a crosswalk, better yet 50. The resulting daylighting would allow removal of quite a few traffic signals which now exist for no other reason than because the intersection has poor lines of sight solely due to allowing parking right up to the crosswalk.

    Sure, this means less curbside parking but that’s a good thing. I may not favor curbside parking at all, but even those who support it lose credibility when they favor parking over safety. If parking blocks lines of sight, regardless of whether or not a traffic signal exists at that location, it has to go. I don’t know about anyone else but I refuse to blindly cross a street, depending 100% for my safety on drivers complying with a red light. That’s a great way to get killed. I like to see what’s coming.

  • Andres Dee

    “Silly pededestrian! Can’t you see I’m a Cadillac?” Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you realize who I know?”

  • Reader

    “Daylighted corners can be painted, protected with flex-posts, or used for bike parking.”

    Flex posts and bike parking are good solutions, but paint alone doesn’t cut it. This is exactly the problem with DOT moving Slow Zone signage to the sidewalks – they remove the gateway treatment from the Slow Zone, which is *the* thing that causes drivers to slow down as they enter. Just removing cars at the corners and replacing them with paint allows drivers to take turns faster. So even if they can see a bit more, I wonder if the benefits of increased visibility are diminished by increased speeds and decreased reaction times.

  • M to the I

    Funny enough, in my neighborhood, after repaving streets, DOT repainted crosswalks around cars that were parked in the crosswalk area when they were working and never came back to finish the job. So now we have cars parked not even right up to the crosswalk but in the crosswalk at corners.

  • Having done most of my urban cycling in London, I was shocked when I came to New York at the appalling visibility at many intersections, which in main part stems from this rule. It leads drivers to pull out further from side streets than they safely should, in order to see. It makes it hard for pedestrians to see dangers and, as Aunt Bike notes, leads pedestrians to wait to cross standing off the curb.

    The striking thing, however, isn’t that this happens but that there’s even any debate about whether this clearly dangerous practice should end. It ought to be stopped tomorrow and, if it were, there would probably be 20 or so fewer road deaths this year. The scandal is that we all know that’s not going to happen.

  • Joe R.

    There would obviously be an uproar, but seriously how can NYC prioritize car storage over safety? It’s bad enough the car owners using these spaces aren’t paying for them. It gets worse when you think people are getting hurt or killed because of it. If we changed the rule, all we’re really doing is not allowing something which never should have been allowed in the first place.

  • JudenChino

    Fuck cars. If you want to rely on your car, move to the suburbs.

  • JudenChino

    This for sure causes deaths. No doubt about it. It’s at the absolute critical point. Just inexcusable.

  • A variant on this problem, incidentally, is the “mixing zones” along some segregated bike lanes. Because drivers expect to be able to park near the corners, many park or stop to make deliveries in the hatched areas at the start of the mixing zones. It’s horrifically dangerous. The parked vehicle makes it impossible for a cyclist to see vehicles that are about to swing across his/her path. The obstruction makes turning vehicles turn at a sharper angle from further out in the road, making it harder for vehicles to see cyclists and yield if there’s someone in the bike lane. Needless to say, I’ve never seen police take any interest in this issue.

  • Andres Dee

    What’s sad is that snooty Manhattan apartment buildings seem to get away with keeping their entranceways clear with their “please don’t block” placards.

  • BBnet3000

    It leads to blocked crosswalks very often as well. Daylighting our intersections would be a real Vision Zero policy but as you said, its not going to happen in any comprehensive way in New York.

  • BBnet3000

    I see trucks and buses get stuck all the time because of this. Even fire trucks! Its not the street width, its the street use!

  • Mark Walker

    Cars are bad enough in this regard but SUVs are worse. You’d have to be a giant, or have the power of levitation, to see over one of those things.

  • Geck

    The City could at least ban trucks, vans, buses and SUVs from corner spots.

  • Alex

    Waiting off the curb makes you MORE visible to cars, especially at night. Ugh, some of these pols.

  • c2check

    It could, if we push DOT and—in response to the vocal minority who make a fuss about removing parking spots—make it clear we don’t care about removing spots at corners, at least

  • ahwr

    Van Brunt Street at Dikeman Street, Brooklyn has bike parking at the corner like that.

    On Park Avenue in Manhattan between 26th and 27th you have a bike corral midblock.

    No right turns, so it only blocks visibility for those who want to see if traffic going straight on Park ave is going to stop at the red light/safe to jaywalk.

    The one at the Park slope armory is in the middle of a long ~ 800 foot block.

    On E60 there’s one maybe a hundred feet east of Madison Avenue.

    In the August 2014 streetview on Madison looking down E60 you can see a truck parked at the corner with the bike corral in the background. Would be more comfortable to cross if the bike corral and truck switched spots. In Aug. 2013 you some cones at the corner, looked like it would be less stressful to cross like that, with the better visibility.

  • AnoNYC

    What about children or very short people? Racks atop. All intersections should be daylighted.

  • AnoNYC

    You gotta be kidding. Can you take pictures of that and submit?

  • AnoNYC

    Which is why need politicians with back bone or at least those who care for their constituents without any pending ambitions.

  • a smith

    Parking restrictions combined with neckdowns at those really busy intersections would really go a long way to creating safer pedestrian facilities.

  • MtotheI

    Here are a couple. They are from streetview. There’s too much snow and ice around to see it now.

  • walks bikes drives

    Right. I think removing the parking from the corner of the one way street in the bottom corner actually works against the safety goal by allowing turns at wider angles and therefor faster speeds. The parked cars effectively narrow the street where the striping has widened it.

  • WoodyinNYC

    We’d laugh at the DOT paint team if we weren’t crying.

  • AnoNYC

    I don’t understand why the vehicle was not moved at the time. How long has that been that way, judging by the trees…

    How could the city allow this poor quality of work? The job’s not done!

  • AnoNYC

    I think paint is sufficient in regards to parking because your vehicle would be towed. I think it fails in regards to standing, which is just as bad at these locations.

    And as mentioned, having nothing there would allow for wider turns.

  • Rabi

    The lack of daylighting in NYC is absolutely insane. It’s not just a problem for pedestrians, or pedestrians and cyclists – it’s also scary as a driver to try to get through an intersection where cross traffic doesn’t stop if there’s no daylighting.

    Getting rid of parking at every intersection in the city is certainly a hard sell, but I think it’s a prerequisite for achieving Vision Zero.

  • Stephen Sachs

    Laws should favor pedestrians. I can’t believe NYC permits cars to block line of sight of pedestrians.

  • 1soReal

    I’ve seen this many times. They close the street for repaving etc. and come back later to paint the road. They typically don’t close the street or ban parking for that. Not on small residential streets anyway. Most times they can work around the parked cars but on the occasions they can’t its too bad. They are not coming back for that.

  • Matt

    And disabled drivers trump disabled pedestrians. It’s sort of silly.

  • Matt

    Seriously. Driving in Ridgewood is a nightmare. The stop signs might as well be halfway into the intersection because that’s how far you have to get before you see if anyone is coming in either direction.

  • AssholeJudenChino

    Fuck You.

  • Richie.

    Fuck bicyclists, if you want to ride your fucking bikes, go to Sweden. CARS RULE>

  • Martini

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but I don’t see where any NYC law allows “parking right up to the [marked] crosswalk” as the white SUV in the first two pics is.

    The author states of this article states, “Parking right up against the crosswalk is dangerous enough that some
    states and cities, including New Jersey and Portland, forbid it.”

    It’s also forbidden in NY state:

    “Parking or standing is not allowed:

    Within 20 feet (6 m) of a crosswalk at an intersection.”

    The author then states:

    “NACTO guidelines suggest 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks. New York City law, however, only prohibits parking within a crosswalk itself (unmarked crosswalks at T intersections excepted, of course).”

    The author provides a link to prove this. Yet the link states:

    “The New York City Traffic rules allow parking at some “T”
    intersections—those without traffic signals, all-way stop signs or
    crosswalk markings—even if there is a curb cut at that location.”

    Where is anything in that link stating that NYC law “only” prohibits parking “within” a crosswalk itself”? It specifically states if crosswalks are marked (as they are in the first two pics with the SUV), parking is not allowed “at” the intersection. I see no evidence of any NYC laws that allow parking right up to marked crosswalks as the SUV is in the first two pics. Based on NY state law, and lack of any NYC laws that I have yet to see that allow it, the SUV is parked illegally.

  • Manny Carvajal

    It’s hard enough as it is to find parking in NYC, the author is one sided in his argument here and doesn’t look at both sided of the coin. If pedestrians would carefully look when they are crossing the street in a cross walk their would be fewer accidents. I drive daily and see little kids getting out of school run right across the street when the light is green no parental supervision, crossing guards not doing there job and then something happens and it’s the motorist fault, that’s BS, motorist in NYC pay huge insurance premiums, tons in maintenance to there vehicles, also gas prices through the roof and still people complain about what parking, Jesus at least give us all the space we can get to park our vehicles in the cramped city, where we pay more in taxes as motorist than pedestrians do for just walking. More motorist means more revenue for the city, so try to appreciate the good motorist out there like me. I have my 6hr defensive driving course, and have never had a ticket, I’m always in my car with my two small children and parking is a nightmare in the city, so give us a break, just cross the street carefully, look both ways and you should be fine.

  • Joe R.

    How can you “carefully look” when crossing a street if a car parked next to a crosswalk blocks your view (and also blocks driver’s views of you)? Allowing parking right up to crosswalks is dangerous for everyone. It shouldn’t be allowed. And drivers have no right to curbside parking in this city like you seem to think, either.

  • Vooch

    You just want FREE parking. You are too Cheap to Pay for Parking and expect others to subsidze your parking.

    BTW – NYC streets are paid for by property taxes, so your argument that Car owners deserve to own the roadway because Drivers Pay for the streets fails

  • AMH

    I have nearly gotten hit so many times at my corner because of this, and it’s compounded by delivery vehicles double-parking at the corner to service the bodega. Drivers blindly make high-speed left turns from the right lane, and if you’re in the crosswalk you have no time to react.

  • ChordieApp

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf
    Section 4-08(e) of the NYC parking code:
    (e) General no stopping zones (stopping, standing and parking prohibited in specified places). No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle in any of the following places, unless otherwise indicated by posted signs, markings or other traffic control devices, or at the direction of a law enforcement officer, or as otherwise provided in this subdivision:
    (4) Intersections. Within an intersection, except on the side of a roadway opposite a street which
    intersects but does not cross such roadway and except as provided in paragraph (5), below.
    (5) Crosswalks. In a crosswalk.

    NYC law will supercede NYS law if the area in question is inside NYC, i believe. Hence, you can park your car with the nose riiiiight up to the crosswalk and there ain’t shit anyone can do about it as long as no part of your car isn’t in the crosswalk.

  • Jeanne Solomon

    The heck with safety! Bah humbug! Do you also rail against Citi Bike stations? The heck with the environment too! PS – I’m also a car owner as well as a pedestrian and would happily give up those cross street parking spots for the safety to pedestrians including my kid. Way too many close calls due to NYC parking regulations favoring near misses. This seems like an easy fix.

  • ginger126

    I’ve never seen such a bias one sided article in my life. Are you kidding me? Do you realize NYC drivers and pedestrians SHARE the roads, and they do not belong to you or any pedestrian exclusively? Do you also realize that if it were not for drivers and the insane amount of money we pay out in ridiculous fines and unfair parking citations – in a city where parking is simply horrible, there would be no surplus for our wonderful parks and other improvements?

    If you want to stop people from being killed in the crosswalk, let’s have them stay OUT of the crosswalk. It is a CROSSWALK not a LOUNGE. NYC is the only place in the world where people stand in the middle of the street and crosswalk, run out between cars against the light – obstructing the flow of traffic, and putting themselves and drivers at risk every day, all day – CONSTANTLY. It never stops. The crossing culture is horrible.

    Pedestrians have zero respect for the roads or others and they inadvertently teach this neglectful behavior to visitors, who I see doing the same thing following foolish NYers. They walk around the busy streets with a sense of entitlement; “pedestrians have the right of way” attitude and cause people to be hurt, killed, arrested and everything else. If the city wants to save lives they should immediately bring back jay-walking fines and hold irresponsible, selfish pedestrians accountable for their outrageous and dangerous crossing behaviors. You will never have this city as a walk and jog only community, we have cars, and plenty of them and people should feel safe to get in their cars with their families and not have to worry about a bunch of selfish people walking out into the street staring at their cell phones oblivious to the rest of the world.

    What we don’t need are any further extensions at crosswalks for you to stand out further and get in the way of traffic. I’ve been crossing and driving for 30 years and I’m not dead because I try to follow the laws and use common sense when crossing and driving. Accidents do happen but most of our troubles come from one way selfish thinkers like you.

    This article is irresponsible and unrealistic. If it weren’t for drivers you would have no food in your fridge, mail in your mailbox, or nothing at all. It’s 2018 – no thank you to your “extended crosswalk,” instead let’s work on extending your common sense and ability to share the road with some respect for the drivers who are using it.

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