This morning at about 9AM, two cars crashed at the corner of 51st and Skillman. One car went up on the sidewalk in front of the laundromat, but was stopped by the bollards protecting the fire hydrant.
I talked to the driver of the green car, and she said that she had been going north on 51st and looked for cars going west on Skillman before proceeding. She claimed that she didn’t see the grey car because it was speeding, but the fact that her passenger-side door window was covered with cardboard might have had something to do with that as well.
The front bumper came off her car; you can see it on the sidewalk in the picture above. Everyone involved was alert and walking around. The ambulance was ready to take some of them to the hospital, but I don’t know if anyone went.
We’re lucky that no one was badly hurt here. Clearly some people (I can’t tell which ones for sure) weren’t as careful as they should have been, but our street should be more tolerant of that kind of failure. That means not encouraging drivers to speed, which in turn means sidewalk extensions and possibly two-way traffic.
I was walking home and saw fire trucks and an ambulance on Skillman just east of 50th Street. I saw John Millus, who caught some photos of the scene:
He said that the green van appears to have tried to make a left turn from the right lane, and didn’t see the grey van in the left lane. It also hit the black Mustang that was parked at the corner. At least one person was taken away in an ambulance:
I took a couple of my own photos, including this close-up:
This is the same place where three cars have crashed into Aubergine Cafe, and there was another fender-bender a few months ago. Sidewalk extensions would help, and so would making Skillman two-way. Join our mailing list to be updated on our campaign.
Amy Pfeiffer of Transportation Alternatives observed that the wide travel lanes on Skillman Avenue encourage drivers to speed. This is confirmed in the book Suburban Nation, by the father of New Urbanism, Andres Duany, and his colleagues Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck (page 204):
We have already discussed pavement width, but we must be more specific. On well-traveled streets within a neighborhood, there is no justification for travel lanes wider than ten feet and parking lanes wider than seven feet. If either are any wider, the cars speed.
Duany and his colleagues continue:
However, on less traveled residential streets, another logic should prevail, that of the “yield street.” Common in almost every prewar American neighborhood— but now summarily rejected by public works departments—the yield street used a single travel lane to handle traffic in both directions. When two cars approach each other, they both slow down, and one eases slightly into a parking lane while the other passes. Because traffic is necessarily slow, accidents are virtually unheard of on such streets in low-density neighborhoods.
This kind of thinking is counterintuitive, but it is borne out on one of the streets in our neighborhood that resembles a “yield street,” 54th Street between Skillman Avenue and 39th Drive. CrashStat reveals that there were no injuries reported on that block (or on 39th Drive) during the study period of 1995-2005. In that period, there was one crash resulting in pedestrian injury on the block of 54th Street south of Skillman, and three on the block of 52nd Street south of Skillman.
Some neighbors have complained to me about that block of 54th Street: it can be difficult to get through, especially if someone double-parks. I have heard suggestions that it be made one-way to help traffic flow better. However, given the “yield streets” concept and the CrashStat data, it is clear that one-way flow on this street would make drivers less cautious and the street less safe. If anything, we should be looking in the other direction.
Thanks to Jon Koller, Dave Feucht, Matthew Lang and Robin Chase on the Streetsblog Network for refreshing my memory when I forgot what these things were called!
As concerned neighbors, we are asking you to support our request to remove 2-3 parking spaces from Skillman Avenue at the corners of 51st , 52nd and 55th Streets – at most 9 spaces – and turn them into sidewalk. Here are some things we want you to know as you consider this issue:
Daylighting would not hurt businesses. The success of our neighborhood stores and services is very important to us. The parking spaces we are asking to be turned into sidewalk are all residential parking. From our observations, cars leave these spaces about once a week, and therefore they are almost never available to customers of the businesses on Skillman.
Daylighting would protect the young and the elderly. We decided to ask for daylighting after a young girl was hit by a car whose driver did not stop at the stop sign or look for pedestrians. (Luckily, she was not badly hurt, but it could have been much worse.) Removing two to three parked cars at only one corner of each of these three intersections would allow drivers to pay more attention to pedestrians and make it easier for them to follow the law.
Daylighting is only part of our proposal. We are also asking for sidewalk extensions at these corners, and we would also support raised crosswalks – essentially a speed bump in the crosswalk. We have also asked for traffic signals, but the Department of Transportation turned down our request. Daylighting would not be necessary if traffic lights are installed.
Last night we presented our petition for “daylighting” at the northeast corner of 52nd Street to the City Services Committee of Community Board 2. Several of our members were in attendance, and I handled the presentation. I discussed the crash on May 13 of last year that sent a girl to the hospital, and the six previous crashes that have been documented over the period 1995-2005. I also pointed out that this is used at several other locations around the neighborhood.
I took the opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about the proposal. We are focusing on the corner of 52nd Street. We would like to see similar arrangements at other intersections, but this is only necessary where there are no traffic lights. There are only two other intersections along Skillman that fit this condition are 55th Street and 51st Street. Since these are one-way streets, there is only one corner at each intersection where this is necessary. This means only three corners, for a maximum of nine parking spaces total.
Some of the committee members expressed concern about the loss of parking; a resident echoed this concern, as well as Principal Efkarpides and some teachers from P.S. 11. In light of these concerns, Committee Chair Patrick O’Brien asked about other possible safety improvements that would not require removing parking. He asked about installing a traffic light. I explained that the DOT had looked at the intersection and determined that a light was “not recommended.”
I suggested that sidewalk extensions would do a lot to improve safety, but that they were expensive and Commissioner McCarthy had told me that they probably wouldn’t be installed any time soon. I mentioned that Al Volpe and I had discussed the possibility of a raised crosswalk at that intersection.
At the end, Jodi Hernandez, President of the P.S. 11 PTA, reminded the committee that this was an issue of children’s safety. Mr. O’Brien said that he would discuss the various possible improvements with the DOT and then either have another discussion at a later meeting or refer it to the full Community Board. No action was taken by the committee last night.
All in all, I think we made it clear that we had over 200 people who went on record saying that they were willing to give up parking for safety. Sidewalk extensions and a raised crosswalk would make a big difference in the safety of the intersection, but daylighting would help even more.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting! We’ll probably have a Coalition meeting in February to discuss our plans for the next few months.
In his petition, Al Volpe asks his neighbors to sign onto the assertion that “Skillman Avenue is a very safe street.” This is simply not true.
CrashStat is a website set up by Transportation Alternatives showing crashes around the city resulting in pedestrian or cyclist injury from 1995 to 2005, based on data compiled from police reports by the New York State Department of Transportation. It shows that there were six separate such crashes at the corner of 52nd and Skillman during this period: pedestrians were injured in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005. These are in addition to the crash in May when a girl was injured, but not seriously.
Compare this, for example, to the stretch of 50th Avenue between 44th Street and 49th Street, where there were no injuries at all during this period. Now that’s what I call a very safe street!