2004-09-30 / Editorials

Pedestrian Bridge Safety Improves Life For All

  • Bicyclists, skateboard riders and in-line skaters will find a challenge to their ability to maneuver at the foot of several pedestrian bridges in Queens under an initiative by the city Department of Transportation. Last week, slalom-course-like sections of four-foot-high fences were installed at the ramps on both ends of several pedestrian bridges that span busy highways in Queens. These intentional obstructions will prevent cyclists and skaters from rolling into traffic as they come off the bridges.
  • The fences are appropriate and to any thinking person, most welcome and long overdue. In July, eight-year-old Joseph Baik was killed as he careened down a ramp from a pedestrian bridge over the Long Island Expressway and into traffic on Cloverdale Boulevard in Bayside. Four years earlier, Christopher Scott, age 12, was struck and killed at the exit from the pedestrian overpass at 46th Avenue and the Clearview Expressway. Another young bicyclist, Nicholas Ho, was severely injured coming off a pedestrian bridge into heavy traffic. Theirs are far from the only names in this sad litany. Now that the fences are being installed on 15 bridges throughout the borough, we trust that no more names will be added to the list of those killed and injured at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that decants into an active roadway.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall were also joined by State Senator Frank Padavan in making the announcement at the Fresh Meadows Lane overpass at the Long Island Expressway. Bloomberg noted that pedestrian bridges, which serve to assist pedestrians as they move between home and work, and over which children ride their bikes and participate in the life of their communities and are vital lifelines in connecting neighborhoods across the city. “It is imperative that residents who rely on these bridges can use them safely and securely,” he said. "Traffic and pedestrian fatalities in the city are at historic lows, but that does not mean we are not going to try to make this city even safer."

    "We have developed a new pedestrian-activated signal for the express purpose of alerting motorists to the presence of people using pedestrian bridges - when the button is pressed, it will trigger a red light for vehicles to ensure the safest pedestrian crossing possible," Commissioner Weinshall said. "Signals will be installed in 19 intersections adjacent to pedestrian bridges over the next several months."

    In all, 31 pedestrian bridges throughout the city in need of safety enhancements will undergo remediation. Besides the slalom fencing and traffic signals, changes also include refurbishment of markings at all pedestrian bridge intersections where traffic control devices are being installed. All work is expected to be completed by December 2005.

    The improvements at bridges throughout the city will cost some $1 million, to come from state and city coffers. State Senator Frank Padavan, who joined Bloomberg and Weinshall at the event, noted that a state legislative grant would account for $500,000 of the cost. Many of the deaths and injuries have occurred on pedestrian bridges in his district. “We now have an opportunity to make these bridges safer throughout New York City,” he declared.

    We agree with the mayor, Weinshall and Padavan that the $1 million allocated for the pedestrian bridge improvement program is money well spent. We also agree that safety measures must take several natural phenomena into account among them the momentum built up by a bicycle ride, in-line skater or skateboarder as they come down off a pedestrian bridge and the inattention of children as they engage in their leisure time activities. Caught up as they are in the lighthearted moments of youth and the sheer pleasure of being outdoors, children cannot be expected to remain completely conscious of safe riding and skating practices all the time. It is the clear duty of the adults in charge of the world around them to institute appropriate measures to ensure their safety. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Weinshall and Senator Padavan for their willingness to recognize the problem and put their money where their concerns are. They have made the city safer for all the children and adults who live and work here.

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