Eyes on the Street: Just Another Brush With Death at a Typical NYC Crossing

The design of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in Long Island City is typical of thousands of New York City crossings: an intersection of relatively narrow streets where drivers are allowed to park to the edge of crosswalks with no design elements to force motorists to slow down.

The combination of poor visibility and lack of traffic-calming features leads to crashes like the one in the video, taken Thursday, when an Access-A-Ride driver sped into a crosswalk while turning left and struck a child with a van’s door-mounted mirror. Luckily it appears the child wasn’t seriously hurt.

Jean Cawley, who sent us the video, has written to DOT officials, including Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia, several times to ask for traffic-calming measures at this intersection and other locations in the area. Cawley also submitted a petition to DOT from residents of Dutch Kills.

Consistent NYPD enforcement wouldn’t hurt either. The 114th Precinct, where the crash in the video occurred, issues an average of just 23 tickets a month to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

Below are images from a two-vehicle collision at the same intersection that sent a cab onto the sidewalk.

“Cars barrel through our streets in a dangerous manner all day, every day,” wrote Cawley in an email to Garcia, with the video and photos attached. “I hope you will help. DOT’s actions may save a life.”


  • Paul G.

    On the hierarchy of terrible vehicles on the road in NYC, paratransit is way up there alongside BMWs and black SUVs. Consistently the worst driving I’ve seen.

  • Parent

    Had this child been killed – and had no video footage existed – the NYPD and the press would have blamed the kid for “darting out” in front of the van.

    This kid did everything right and still got hit. Shame on DOT for not fixing our streets faster.

  • Jeff

    BMWs with New Jersey license plates

  • Joe R.
  • Andres Dee

    “Common sense”. That’s what apologists for bullies in cars bring up to argue against enforcement of right-of-way for people on foot (aka “pededestrians”) or against even the existence of such right-of-way laws. Drivers should not have to stop, or even yield, for pededestrians in crosswalks. It’s too confusing. Drivers risk getting rear-ended. Pededestrians should “just use common sense” and wait to cross when there are no cars coming.

    There’s your “common sense”, caught on video. OK, time to trot out motorists’ other favorite excuses…lack of bright clothes, texting, lack of whistle, lack of helment…

  • Joe R.

    You don’t need “traffic calming” measures here. You need to throw out the existing licensing standards, make new ones, retest everyone, and revoke the licenses of those who don’t make the cut. A good driver will know when it’s not appropriate to go fast even without traffic calming measures. We’ve been down this road already. More stop signs, more traffic lights, speed bumps, etc. all ostensibly to calm traffic. It doesn’t fucking work! At all! We’re trying to fix the problem of poorly trained drivers with street design. You can’t. Fix the primary source of the problem, which is the untrained idiot behind the wheel. Fix the secondary source of the problem, which is the ridiculous volumes of motor traffic which can turn even the best drivers into frothing at the mouth lunatics.

  • DRDV

    Couldn’t agree more. Been biking in NYC for 27 years and they’re the worst drivers I’ve ever seen — in extra-wide vehicles. I give them a wide berth and some times even pull over to let them pass.

  • JamesR

    Of course it’s an Access-A-Ride van. Those things are murder on wheels.

  • Slow and Steady

    The “idiot” behind the wheel has been trotted out by the car industry to explain traffic violence for the last 100 years. It’s a convenient myth that allows the hearer to believe themselves on one side (non-idiot) and some nefarious “other” on the other side.

    After 100 years, it’s clear this approach does nothing except let car culture off the hook.

    If we actually enforced stringent testing and education, say a 6 month full time driver course, to be repeated every 5 years, most people simply wouldn’t be able to drive,

  • BrownBrown

    Terrible design = death. Terrible drivers = death. Both together = double death.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The kid did everything the law and the traffic signals said they should do. But that isn’t everything right given the de facto law of NY. If it benefits you and there are no consequences, it is “legal.”

    What the kid did that was the most right was look back in terror and jump back. That’s what I taught my kids to do.

    What would have been more right is to cross mid block, only when there are no motor vehicles moving within vision, breaking the rules.

    True, in that case if somebody pulled out of a parking spot, gunned it to beat a light at the end of the block, and ran the kid over, the police and post readers would blame the kid. But the odds of that are lower than the scenario above.

  • Joe R.

    Your last sentence is exactly what I’m getting at. No amount of training will help a “typical” person to become a safe driver because they’re not inherently capable of being one. It’s sort of like trying to train your average cyclist to be a Tour de France winner. It’s not happening in most cases because the person is lacking in key areas. Obviously TDF winners are far rarely than safe drivers but nevertheless I feel probably less than 10% of the population inherently has the characteristics needed to be a safe driver. The end result of public policy which accepts this fact is precisely what you said, namely more walking, biking, and transit, plus far less driving.

  • Joe R.

    Crossing midblock or against the light are basic survival strategies for staying alive crossing NYC streets which every parent should teach. Same thing with cycling. Passing red lights when you can makes cycling much safer and less stressful. Of course none of this is legal, but I’d rather be alive and a lawbreaker than dead and law-abiding.

  • armyvet00

    Not one of these drivers yeilded to the pedestrian, which they are ALL required to do!!

  • JudenChino

    Access-A-Rides are the absolute worst. I saw one, run two reds in a row last night, in crowded ass Fort Greene, honking like a mad man. And for what.

  • chekpeds

    the installation of a split phase signal with a fully protected phase for pedestrians, would avoid crashes. study has shown that such signals reduce crashes by 70 % If we want to follow the Vision Zero guidelines, street design must take priority.

  • WoodyinNYC

    The poor kid followed the rules, and reacted quickly to someone else breaking the rules, and saved his own life with little or no help from the Police, the DOT, or others. He is the hero of this video.

    Sadly, the frightened woman who ran up on the scene then apparently scolded the kid, like, “Oh, you could have been killed!” as if he had done anything wrong. Better to shout in the reckless driver’s face, then comfort and reassure the scared child by complimenting him on his street smarts.

  • WoodyinNYC

    How many paratransit drivers really wish they were cops? These wannabes drive “official” vehicles with much of the cops’ sense of entitlement.

  • com63

    What exactly do we think the kid was doing? He didn’t seem to be crossing the street since he took some awkward steps out in the street and then started to come back. If he had just crossed directly, he would have made it before the van arrived. The van is still reckless in either case, but the kid’s movements are a bit mystifying.

  • Andres Dee

    He probably darted back as a response to being honked at by the oncoming van.

  • mattkime

    are the licensed by the TLC?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Range Rover scout are worst

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I admit to being totally baffled by what’s going on in the video. The people on 29th have a stop sign, and are supposed to stop, but none of them stop or even “California stop”. The person in the crosswalk has the undeniable right of way, but they are creeping out into the road because they are worried that the motorists won’t even stop at a stop sign. That is completely outrageous. And that’s all before the bus!

  • neroden

    I very optimistically think that almost 30% of the population is capable of being safe drivers.

    This would still mean revoking the licenses of about 70% of the population.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s clear what the kid was doing. He/she was taught not to cross if there was a car coming, stop sign or no. He/she was edging out, looking down the street he/she was crossing.

    When a car approached the stop sign he/she started getting out of the way by backing off and not crossing. And then was nearly run over by the van.

    In short, a driver advocate would probably say the child deserved to be run over by a motor vehicle that did not have the right of way because the child was yielding to a different motor vehicle that did not have the right of way.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Right. The kid was looking down the street he/she was about to cross, and scuttled back as a motor vehicle approached the stop sign.

    And then was almost run over by the van even so.

    I’m not baffled at all. “Don’t cross if you can see a car coming.” That’s what I told my kids. Mid-block when they were that little.

    When crossing Prospect Park West at 9th Street, I told them to wait as many light cycles as required until a bunch of motor vehicles had backed up behind the light to block anyone from going through, then run across. They crossed Prospect Park Southwest in the subway.

  • Joe R.

    The kid is simply doing exactly what I would be doing in that situation. Stop sign or not, I wait until no cars are close enough to reach the crosswalk while I’m still in it if they fail to stop. I do the same when crossing against the light at signalized intersections, or when crossing midblock. I trust drivers about as far as I can throw them. I even wait until vehicles stop completely at red lights before crossing in front of them. Driving habits in this city are incompetent and sociopathic. Assuming the worst all the time is the only way you can really be safe crossing streets.

  • Mike

    It’s like they’re trying to create future customers.

  • Guest

    I dunno. Oddly enough, I find drivers in Hoboken and Jersey City to generally respect pedestrians more than in NYC.

  • Reader

    “If he had just crossed directly, he would have made it before the van arrived.”

    Plenty of kids get hit while following a straight and steady path. You could just as easily have said that this kid might have been in the full-on path of the vehicle.

    This kid did nothing wrong. Full stop.

  • KeNYC2030

    Not to deflect attention from an intersection that clearly needs design and signal improvements, but in my experience Access-a-Ride drivers are aggressive and fairly heedless of pedestrians and cyclists, and those wildly protruding mirrors add to the danger. What are the qualifications for hiring? How are drivers trained? How much are they paid? Are they constantly behind schedule and in a rush? As the bard said, “Somebody better investigate soon.”

  • Noel Labat-Comess

    I agree with your comment 100%. As soon as I saw the name Access-a-Ride in the article the thought was triggered. Kind of amazing that in a city of crazy-assed drivers of all stripes that one company could stand out as so consistently egregious in their driving behavior (Is their goal to create more handicapped clients for themselves? Not funny, I know.) I’m sure there are, as you imply, corporate policies that encourage the behavior.

  • neroden

    This is because anyone who is driving in NYC (unless they’re driving a work truck or a bus) is, by definition, crazy. Because you’d have to be crazy to drive in NYC.


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