Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) today released the agency’s study on left-turn crashes across New York City. The Commissioner was joined in Soho by State Senator Daniel Squadron and Council member Margaret Chin at Kenmare and Lafayette Streets, where DOT recently installed several new safety improvements. The corner was the subject of a “Dear Polly Trottenberg” video made this spring by 9-year old Lucas Maxwell, a 4th grader at PS 130 in Soho, who had urged the Commissioner to take corrective action at what he dubbed the “Corner of Death” (link to video here).
“I am happy to report that some youthful exaggeration was at work in Lucas’ informative video -- and that this Soho corner has not been the site of any recent fatalities,” said Mayor de Blasio. “But Lucas’s video showed the power of giving our kids a voice, as he pointed a powerful spotlight both on one dangerous corner and on the serious problem of left turns in general. DOT’s new study shows why left turns are a focus of our Vision Zero work, and demonstrates with data that interventions like giving pedestrians a head start and installing protected bike lanes are effective in reducing death and serious injury on our streets.”
"Lucas identified a key goal of Vision Zero -- the need to protect pedestrians and cyclists when vehicles are turning left,” said Commissioner Trottenberg. “DOT's data show that crashes occur disproportionately during left turns and cause over a quarter of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries on our streets. Here in Soho, DOT has engineered safety changes for this left turn at Lafayette Street -- and we are piloting new left turn safety treatments at other intersections around the City. Our aggressive approach -- looking at every factor in every crash -- is dedicated to the Vision Zero goal of allowing students like Lucas, seniors, and everyone else to travel our streets safely.”
In January, Mayor de Blasio announced a new focus on left turns as a part of Vision Zero. The DOT study released today, “Don’t Cut Corners,” includes data that show left turns are responsible for three times more severe injuries and fatalities than right turns – and that in 2014, they constituted almost 30% of all pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City. The median age of pedestrians killed in left-turn crashes is age 67, significantly higher than the median age of 50 for other crashes. Through a detailed, manual review of crash data, DOT also discovered that left-turn injuries and fatalities were concentrated at intersections where vehicles were moving from a minor (usually narrower and one-way) street and turning into a major (usually wider two-way) street.
The study was required by Local Law 21 of 2014, among a package of Vision Zero bills passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor. The left-turn study evaluates the effectiveness of DOT interventions in reducing the risk posed from left-turning vehicles and found that, among other treatments:
- Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs, signals that give pedestrians a head-start) reduced pedestrian and bicyclist injuries from left turns by 14%.
- Protected bike lanes reduced pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities from left turns by 15%.
- Left-turn restrictions reduced pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities from left turns by 41%.
- Left-turn-only signals reduced pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities from left turns by 33%.
In 2015, DOT installed a record 12.4 miles of protected bike lanes and 417 leading pedestrian intervals, more than doubling the number of LPIs currently installed at NYC intersections. For 2016, DOT is planning to install more than 15 miles of protected bike lanes, and over 500 additional LPIs at intersections across the city.
In addition to continuing to roll out effective safety treatments, the City is also undertaking a 100-intersection pilot initiative to test new safer left-turn designs. All 100 pilot sites are expected to be completed by the end of the summer, and will be evaluated to determine their effect on slowing vehicle turns and improving safety. If successful, the piloted intersection treatments will be expanded to additional sites across the City.
Because westbound Kenmare Street ends at Lafayette Street, the volume of left-turning vehicles is very high; the westbound left turn is in fact part of a direct route from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Holland Tunnel. Over a five-year period (2010-2014), 11 pedestrians and 1 bicyclist were injured in this intersection, more than half during vehicular left turns, putting it among the top 1% of New York City intersections for pedestrian and bicyclist left-turn injuries.
Lucas Maxwell’s video, “Urgent! – Imminent Death!” was produced by his older brother Zachary. In the video, Lucas had only requested additional signage (“SLOW- Pedestrian Crossing”), but DOT’s evaluation of the intersection instead led to more dramatic improvements, including:
- Provision of a 12-second Leading Pedestrian Interval for those crossing Lafayette Street, increasing the time pedestrians have in the crosswalk without turning vehicles.
- For the vehicular westbound left turn from Kenmare Street to Lafayette Street, replacement of a green light with a flashing-yellow left turn arrow to increase driver caution and slow speeds in the turn.
- Refurbished lane markings and crosswalks, as well as new parking regulations to clarify vehicle movements at the intersection
- Installation of a “Quick Kurb” on the Kenmare Street center line to keep turning vehicles in lane as well as to inhibit faster speeds and “cutting corners.”
"It's always great to see civic engagement from our youngest New Yorkers, especially when it leads to positive changes," said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, "It's no secret that left turns pose the greatest threat to pedestrians in the crosswalk, that's why we at the Council took the proactive step to spur a study of these turns, giving us the data we need to make important and intelligent safety changes. With their study completed, the DOT is now equipped to take a data-backed approach to redesigning intersections and using their extensive toolbox to keep New Yorkers safer from reckless or inattentive drivers."
“When these brothers had a street safety concern, they didn't kid around -- they worked together to propose a solution.” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “Lucas and Zachary’s successful advocacy on Kenmare & Lafayette shows that all New Yorkers -- no matter their age -- can get involved with government and make positive impacts in their communities. Thank you to Commissioner Trottenberg and DOT, my colleagues, the Community Board, and Lucas and Zachary.”
“As an Assemblymember my mission is to ensure the safety of our community,” said Assembly Member Alice Cancel. “I anticipate that this will greatly improve pedestrian safety.”
“Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable when vehicles wishing to turn left compete with people using a crosswalk, said Assembly Member Deborah Glick. “These proposed changes are a welcomed protection for both pedestrians and vehicles. These are the key goals of Vision Zero and show how this program addresses long standing safety issues."
“Two years ago, recognizing the unique danger motorists making left hand turns poses to pedestrians, I sponsored a bill that required DOT to study ways to reduce the risk of crashes, injuries, and deaths caused by such maneuvers,” said Council Member Ruben Wills. “The Department appropriately prioritized the implementation of Local Law 21, and today’s announcement reflects its ongoing commitment to preserving the safety of all who travel along our City’s streets and sidewalks. This latest effort will save lives.”
“Lucas’ efforts to alert us to the dangers at this intersection are an example of how every New Yorker, regardless of age, can contribute to creating a safer City,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, who represents the neighborhood and had written Commissioner Trottenberg about the intersection. “I thank Lucas for his creativity and persistence in advocating for these safety improvements, and Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg for responding so quickly to protect pedestrians and bicyclists at this busy intersection in my Council district.”
"I think the changes at the corner are really cool,” said Lucas Maxwell. “I am happy that Commissioner Trottenberg watched my movie and made the neighborhood safer."
In addition to the pilot project to reduce left-turn collisions, Mayor de Blasio in January announced several other new Vision Zero initiatives for 2016, including an increased $115 million investment in street redesign and traffic-calming measures on key thoroughfares citywide, the expansion of the bicycle network, targeted NYPD enforcement, increased use of speed-enforcement cameras as well as more intensive safety education in collaboration with the Department of Education in elementary and middle schools. For more information about the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero initiatives in 2015 and 2016, please visit here.
For more photos of the installations and today’s event, visit our Flickr page.