Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chelsea Intersection Made Safer

Problems are global, politics is local. Earlier this year in May, an elderly Penn South resident was killed by a truck as she was walking across Ninth Ave. at the south side of 23rd St. Since I overlook this corner and have witnessed the aftermath of several fatalities resulting from speeding downtown cars at this intersection, I described it as the neighborhood’s “dead man’s curve” in an article in Chelsea Now by Al Amateau.

Something has now been done about it. Kernan Huttick and the Penn South residents' council lobbied three people: Traffic Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at NYC DOT, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (who lives in London Terrace on the NW corner of the intersection), and State Sen. Tom Duane (a resident of Penn South, which starts at the NE corner).

Commisioner Sadik-Khan, who came from an engineering firm and has an explicit “green it up” agenda, devised an interesting solution that is a twofer. It puts an island in the middle of Ninth Avenue so that elderly people can make the trip across Ninth Avenue in two stages if necessary. At the same time it creates a bicycle lane, courtesy of DOT's Bicycle Projects Group, described as “awesome” by Amy Pfeiffer of Transportation Alternatives. Here's a DOT slide show on the twofer innovation - creating a bicycle lane and an island for Chelsea's senior citizens.

DOT gets great credit for taking an edgy action to deal with a real and persistent problem. The improvement will certainly make it safer to cross and the bicycle lane is in use. Now we watch to see how it works in practice.