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Canal Street

Driver Kills Elderly Woman Near Gridlocked Canal Street 

1:20 PM EST on November 11, 2021

A woman was killed on West Street on Wednesday night at almost the exact location of the pedestrian in this Google street view still.

A Manhattan senior was run over and killed by the driver of a massive pickup truck on Wednesday while she was trying to cross highway-like West Street near Canal Street — a dangerous area that advocates have been trying to fix for years.

Police said that the 70-year-old driver of a 2017 Toyota Tundra was stopped at a red light in the right southbound lane of West Street, just north of Canal, at around 2:45 p.m. When the light turned green, the driver, whom cops did not name, hit the gas and struck 78-year-old Mablen Jones, who was crossing West Street from west to east. The intersection has no crosswalk or pedestrian signal because city officials are trying to discourage pedestrians from crossing at that point because it would inhibit the flow of cars either turning left onto Canal or cars from Canal turning right onto West Street. But the area is a draw for pedestrians, thanks to the presence of the popular Hudson River Park and its extensive recreation space, and should be made safe for them, advocates say.

“The park is a big draw for pedestrians, anywhere that pedestrians are trying to cross should have a crosswalk," said former DOT Deputy Commissioner, "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz.

Jones, who lived near where she was killed, suffered body trauma and was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where she died. The driver remained on the scene and was not issued a summons, even for failing to exercise due care, the lowest possible charge (cops say the investigation is ongoing). 

If the preliminary police report is accurate, it is unlikely that the driver could have generated enough speed in such a short distance to kill Jones; more likely the weight of the Tundra played a large factor. Such cars weigh 5,085, according to Motor Trend.

According to Crash Mapper, there have been 38 reported crashes on West Street between the two Canal Street intersections since October, 2019, causing 15 injuries, including to one cyclist.

The mess of Canal Street.
The mess of Canal Street.

Canal Street has been a source of outrage for advocates for years, and members of Manhattan Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee demanded last year that the Department of Transportation finally fix the busy, dangerous roadway that links the Holland Tunnel and the Manhattan Bridge — two major pieces of car infrastructure. Activists have asked DOT for traffic-calming measures such as expanded pedestrian space, an east-west protected bike lane on or near Canal Street, and dedicated bus lanes. 

But the area remains a mess. Streetsblog reported back in September, during what was supposed to be so-called “Gridlock Alert” days for the UN General Assembly, that the number of people driving into Manhattan was roughly the same as the week prior — causing havoc on Canal Street, and forcing pedestrians to squeeze between dozens of cars and trucks just to cross the street.

Something clearly stinks on Canal Street — and it ain't the fish markets. Since October, 2019, on Canal Street there have been 593 crashes reported to police (which does not include minor fender-benders), injuring 36 cyclists, 39 pedestrians and 127 motorists, according to city stats.

By comparison, on a stretch of Houston Street west of Essex Street — a similar length — there have been 352 reported crashes over the same period.

This year is the most bloody year in the history of Mayor de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative, which he launched shortly after taking office in 2014. Through Nov. 8, 230 people had been killed on city streets, the most of any year since 2013.

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT

A spokesperson for DOT said the agency will look at the intersection for potential safety improvements as it does following any fatality, and is also working with its state partner, the New York State Department of Transportation, to enhance pedestrian access to the green space as part of its Hudson Square study.

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