Seniors hail city’s revival of pedestrian-friendly crossings

Seniors: This program divided cannot stand
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Some dangerous local crosswalks are going to get a bit more pedestrian-friendly.

Department of Transportation was in Southern Brooklyn last week to unveil plans for pedestrian safety improvements aimed at protecting senior citizens — who are disproportionately struck by vehicles — including giving more intersections the so-called “Leading Pedestrian Interval” crossing-light system, which lets pedestrians get a few seconds’ head start while all traffic is stopped before the light turns green.

One local senior citizen who was hit by a car in December said it’s high time the city expanded the Leading Pedestrian Interval system, because it protects seniors who were crossing the street from drivers making turns on green lights — which is legal, but can lead to accidents.

“The cars can’t wait to make their turn, they get itchy waiting,” said Elaine Berger, who was traumatized but not injured when she was struck last year. “They can see the people crossing, but they try to beat it.”

Under the plan — part of Vision Zero, an initiative under Mayor DeBlasio that aspires to eliminate pedestrian traffic fatalities — Coney Island Avenue has been labeled by the department as one of 49 “priority corridors” in the borough that need safety improvements. These thoroughfares make up nine percent of the borough’s total street mileage but account for 50 percent of the borough’s serious accidents.

The department said it plans to amp up safety precautions for pedestrians, including adding exclusive pedestrian crossing to all “feasible” priority intersections by the end of 2017.

Though senior citizens only comprise 12 percent of the borough’s population, they account for 36 percent of pedestrian fatalities, according to data from the department. One elected official said that he is confident the department’s new plan will help lower that troubling statistic.

“As the councilman of one of the city’s most senior-populated districts, I am especially attuned to the disproportionately high number of seniors involved in vehicular accidents,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay). “The plan that the mayor and commissioner are unveiling … will address some of my biggest concerns with regard to safety.”

Berger said that Leading Pedestrian Interval system is beneficial to pedestrians but it also helps drivers, because everyone has a chance to cross roadways and make turns without worrying about a collision.

“The cars are going all at one time or the people are going all at one time,” she said.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.