Riverdale Avenue might look calm, but it can be a dangerous stretch of road. Especially between West 230th and West 236th streets.
Paint lines marking out four lanes of traffic are faded, and double-parked cars on both sides render some lanes impassable. Drivers and pedestrians are both at risk.
Dave Keck knows how unsafe Riverdale Avenue can be. On July 29, he was crossing the road with his 11-year-old daughter Amy when a car turning from West 236th hit both of them. They had the walk signal, but that didn’t stop them from both ending up on the hood of a car, which drove forward several more feet before stopping.
Neither David nor Amy were seriously injured. In fact, the Riverdale father said, they were “very lucky” to have come away relatively unharmed.
“It’s the kind of things that if you’re a New Yorker, it’s a nightmare. And I’m very careful,” David said. “We were right next to each other.”
While the two are OK, the last thing Riverdale needs is a reputation of cars picking fights with pedestrians. That led Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen to call on Nivardo Lopez — the Bronx borough commissioner for the city’s transportation department — to conduct a traffic safety study.
In a letter to Lopez, Dinowitz and Cohen say this isn’t the first time they’ve raised concerns about the dangerous conditions in the area, including the intersection of Riverdale and Greystone avenues. Motorists on Riverdale Avenue have a flashing yellow traffic signal, indicating they should slow down. Drivers on Greystone have a flashing red, which acts as a stop signal.
There is no pedestrian signal at the unusually constructed intersection.
And that’s a problem. Especially in a borough where a pedestrian is killed or severely injured every other day, according to DOT’s own data. And while many might push the blame on walkers not crossing when and where they should, DOT says that 85 percent of those accidents are actually caused by dangerous driver behavior — like speeding, running red lights, and failing to yield to pedestrians.
“I think it reflects an outdated mode of thinking about traffic,” Cohen said. “It’s an old street. It was designed a long time ago. It needs a fresh eye, common-sense improvements.”
Those common-sense improvements could include left-turn signals at certain intersections, pedestrian islands at wide crossings at West 236th, and a true traffic signal at Greystone.
The Keck family lives on Riverdale Avenue between West 231st and Greystone. Anne Keck — David’s wife and Amy’s mother — says she’s been concerned about the street since they moved in.
“About a year ago, a car jumped the curb because it was speeding, and ran into our front entrance,” she said. “On Greystone, my husband will say, ‘Look both ways. Do you see the car that’s going to kill us? Do you see the one that’s going to get us?’”
Cars turn from Riverdale Avenue at high speeds, Anne said, and do not check for or yield to pedestrians. She would like a traffic light installed with a delayed green, giving time for pedestrians to journey across the busy street.
Amy is entering sixth grade with hopes she would now be able to walk to school by herself. But her mother is worried about her daughter crossing Greystone without anyone to monitor the traffic.
“I had promised Amy that she gets to walk to school with a friend,” Anne said. “I’m going to stick to that, but it makes me a lot more nervous.”
Speeding and not yielding to pedestrians are only some of the issues facing pedestrians and drivers. Double-parking also is rampant and dangerous.
“The big intersection at 236th, it’s very busy, there’s no enforcement of double-parking,” Dinowitz said. “When a single car double-parks on Riverdale Avenue, it turns a two-way roadway into a one-way roadway. It makes traffic conditions worse because cars are merging together, making turns.”
Stronger enforcement against double-parking — which forces cars to merge or pull into oncoming traffic — is critical, the Assemblyman said. Double-parking is still illegal for passenger and most other vehicles in New York City.
The DOT’s Vision Zero plan does not identify Riverdale Avenue as a “priority corridor” for safety improvements. Those corridors, which include Kingsbridge Avenue — and are determined by the number of pedestrians killed or severely injured between 2009 and 2013 — are receiving new traffic signals designed to give pedestrians a head start in crossing the street.
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel thinks a study could suggest simple improvements to help keep drivers and pedestrians safe, like how the timing of traffic light signals can reduce speeding, he said. But even small problems need to be identified before they can be fixed.
“I’m not saying that I have the answer, but let them study it,” the congressman said. “There needs to be a study, and we need to figure out what the best way is to prevent accidents.”