Walkers remain on their own


There was a day and age when pedestrians ruled the streets, and everything else was directed around them.

Don’t believe it? You’re right to doubt. Pedestrians haven’t had the right of way since at least the invention of the wheel — and to expect they might get that now is asking a lot.

Streets are made for cars, trucks and buses. In more recent years, we’ve added bicycles to the mix. But if you’re someone who wants to get around by foot — expect a perilous journey where your very safety is at risk.

Take the south sidewalk of the Henry Hudson Parkway overpass at West 232nd Street. Pedestrians have not been able to make their way down that particular path for months — unless they are willing to take their chances on the street itself — while the state transportation department slowly but surely builds a new bicycle lane.

“It’s is very hazardous walking around here while this construction is up,” said one neighbor, Matthew Cohen. “The cars, of course, don’t help. They’re not considerate, either. And if you go on the other side, try crossing those cars that are making the left turn. Half the time, they don’t see you — especially at night.”

Of course, the Henry Hudson Parkway service roads are not the only dangerous places to walk. Some of our streets completely lack sidewalks.

For many, many years, your only way to get from the Riverdale Metro-North train station was to either take the not-so-dependable shuttle bus, or to walk a rather steep hill that is West 254th Street. There is no sidewalk, nothing to stop a car going over the hill and hitting you.

Finally, a decade after it was first proposed, sidewalks are finally being constructed. But why did it take so long?

The late Ruth Mullen once said the only way a dangerous intersection in front of her Spuyten Duyvil home would be improved is if someone was killed there. She fought for years to get a traffic light placed at the oddly constructed intersection of Johnson Avenue and Kappock Street where vehicles treated the sharp corners like it was the Watkins Glen racetrack.

The city’s transportation department never listened. The intersection remained unchanged. And then one fall evening in 2021, Ruth was walking in the crosswalk when a bus rounded the corner and hit her, taking her from us far too soon.

Now there is a traffic light at Johnson and Kappock, but it shouldn’t take tragedy to give pedestrians a priority. Our transportation leaders must be proactive, not reactive. And just like they plan out elaborate detours to get cars and trucks around busy work sites, the same attention must be paid to pedestrian paths as well.

There is no need for those simply wishing to walk near their West 232nd Street homes — or anywhere in the city — to have to fend for themselves.

It’s great to see all this work being done to improve our streets. But let’s improve it for pedestrians, too.

pedestrian safety, NYC streets, dangerous intersections, sidewalk construction, pedestrian rights, transportation challenges