The intersection of 14th Street and 1st Avenue is a major crossroads for Downtown Manhattan’s commuters. It’s the first stop in Manhattan on the L Train, and a stop on two major bus lines, the crosstown M14 and the uptown M15 – the two most heavily-used bus lines in Manhattan. It’s the location of the first north-south avenue from the many blocks and housing projects of Alphabet City and the massive Stuyvesant Town housing complex. More than 50,000 people live within a nine-block radius of these corners, and many of them pass through this intersection daily by foot. And so does crosstown and uptown car and truck traffic, often screaming through, and leading to dozens of pedestrian and cycling accidents in recent years, according to Transportation Alternatives’ Crash Stat program.
But rather than focus on making improvements for the tens of thousands of pedestrians that pass through the intersection daily, NYC’s DOT would rather scold them. Instead of focusing on how to slow traffic that often screams through the intersection just a few feet from throngs of pedestrians waiting to cross, they would rather focus on how to stop pedestrians from crossing the intersection by placing these signs at every corner.
Now, there are plenty of pedestrians who take their lives into their own hands by crossing against the signals here. But simply installing these signs ignores the major deficiency of this intersection: insufficient pedestrian facilities. 14th and 1st have no curb extensions, pedestrian refuges, or even crosswalks wide enough to support the rush hour crowds. And forget about leading pedestrian intervals – the signals actually favor car traffic, giving left turns from 14th Street onto 1st Avenue a headstart before pedestrians can cross. Let’s hope that these signs are a stopgap measure and not the DOT’s solution to fixing up this disastrous intersection.
This is an unfortunate reminder that despite NYC Transportation Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan’s best efforts to change the mindset of DOT from one of moving cars to one of moving people, the agency still has a long way to go.