Trying to Ratchet Down NYC's Street Tensions With Love -- and Valentines

Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 04:56 PM

Safe streets activists at the intersection of Broadway and 96th street (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

Traffic engineers often refer to things like speed bumps and pedestrian islands as 'traffic calming' measures. On Sunday, activists took to one particularly troublesome intersection and employed a different method of street soothing -- one that involved the judicious application of Valentines and hot chocolate.

Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way, said the point was to "love our streets."

He and about a dozen other activists were on Broadway at 96th Street on Sunday afternoon, to raise awareness of recent pedestrian deaths at that intersection and underscore the need to share streets safely. Three people have died at or near that intersection so far this year.

"We can come together to enjoy each other's company here," Stephan said. "It's a much better reality, and we're trying to put forth the reality that we want, which is much nicer than the current carnage than is our streets."

The group handed out Valentines to passersby that read, in part: "Smile at cyclists, wait for walkers, and let cars keep to their lanes...Let's take care of each other as we're moving, and make our streets safe and joyful places for travel, culture, and interaction."

(Kate Hinds/WNYC)

They also handed out hot chocolate at the pedestrian island in the middle of Broadway, although organizers didn't expect it to last long.

Participant Monica Hunken said "we need a little bit of warmth when it's really cold out here and people are harsh. I spent some time scouting out here the other day and I saw old women getting pushed out into the street to have to cross."

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to release an interagency report this week highlighting steps the city can take to reduce traffic fatalities.

Captain America, on duty at 96th Street and Broadway (Kate Hinds/WNYC)


Comments [7]

AMHess from Harlem

"Let's not forget that in a good number of the accidents that pedestrians or cyclists tend to get into, it seems to be with them going into harm's way by flouting the laws themselves."

The point is that it is far to easy to find oneself in harm's way--a simple mistake should not cost your life.

The laws also need to be redesigned for the convenience of people rather than traffic. The reason many pedestrians and cyclists sneak through red lights is that they are timed for the convenience of drivers. With such a small window to cross the street "legally", the delay for a pedestrian or cyclist is enormous--many times what would be considered acceptable for a motorist.

Feb. 19 2014 11:02 AM


"pedestrians/bikes" don't kill people, cars do" is the fog constantly sprayed by the "we hate cars" folks. As many New Yorkers, I am a pedestrian, a subway rider and a driver at various times. I have seen aggressive drivers not yield at crosswalks, I have seen drivers hitting 45 mph on side streets, I have seen pedestrians crossing mid block between parked cars looking away from the direction of traffic, and I have seen many, many bikes running red lights and stop signs (I almost hit one the other day - would that have been my "fault?"). As soon as we recognize that each of us can contribute to the solution instead of the problem, we will all be far better off.

Feb. 19 2014 07:34 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Sully, what you are giving me is nothing but the effects, while I am stating the causes here. I won't argue that pedestrians jaywalking can't kill other pedestrians or that cyclists flouting the laws doesn't kill or injure as mush, but this is only effects, not the causes. Statistics never state the causes, and that's what so many on the anti-car crowd tends to omit especially when the causes state what really happened. By such logic, then Hamas must not be much of a terrorist organization, because when you compare the number of civilians they kill, it's far less than what the Israel Defense Force does. However, if you were to look at the causes, you would see that Hamas has a history of placing their own people into harm's way as either human shields or have their bases in densely populated areas, which is something that statistics don't list. Getting back to streets, saying that the motorists isn't solely responsible for their actions isn't the same as saying that they aren't responsible at all, there were just other factors, but anti-car fanatics will never admit to that. When you place yourself into harm's way, it sort of is your fault. The way I see it, there are websites such as Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives that constantly glorify those that act irresponsibly on the streets and consider them martyrs even when they were breaking the law. For the record, I do follow a lot of laws when I'm driving, which is most likely way more than what those who don't drive are doing. Honestly, I don't see what's wrong with waiting for the walk signal to cross, but I guess to those like yourselves, you find the rules unpopular while demanding that others be subject to rules all the time like George Orwell's Animal Farm where you feel that you are those special animals.

Feb. 17 2014 04:36 PM
sully from 10022

@Tal Barzilai

How many people are killed by pedestrians hitting them? What about cyclists? I think pedestrians kill, oh, roughly ZERO other people each year. Cyclists perhaps one every couple of years.

" Let's not forget that in a good number of the accidents that pedestrians or cyclists tend to get into, it seems to be with them going into harm's way by flouting the laws themselves."

On deaths in NYC this is not true.

Feb. 17 2014 03:59 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I am all for safe streets, but the only way to truly make them safe is to have all groups play their part, not just one alone. I have always been hearing about the blame being pushed solely on the motorists when there is really more than one side to every story. It's easy to look at the effects, but the real story comes from the causes. Let's not forget that in a good number of the accidents that pedestrians or cyclists tend to get into, it seems to be with them going into harm's way by flouting the laws themselves. I have always found it an irony that they claim that we motorists must follow every letter of the law and it must be strictly enforced while they can be exempt from them all. The truth is that as long as they aren't practicing what they preach, they will get hit even if us motorists are following the laws when they aren't. In reality, having the right of way isn't absolute nor does it always guarantee safety, it just states who can go first and in that order. Overall, I do find this group to be nothing more than an anti-car extremists that always scapegoats car before looking at the big picture. Keep in mind that NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton mentioned that 87% of pedestrian accidents do come from jaywalking, which is why there needs to be a crackdown on that as well as cyclists who seem to disobey a lot of traffic lights and signs. In other words, if you don't start with yourself when it comes to safety, you have no moral legitimacy to say this to others.

Feb. 17 2014 03:30 PM
Laura-Make Queens Safer from Queens

This was a wonderful way to take some of the ire out of this issue. We all need to feel safe on our streets. We all need to do our part. If we can do our parts joyously and with a ready smile, not grudgingly, that is where the paradigm shift comes in. Great job, Keegan and the UWS street safety activists!

Feb. 17 2014 12:28 PM
Keegan from NYC

Safety is often thought of as a prerequisite for vibrant street life. But vibrant street life can itself be a tool for creating safer streets. People populating an intersection, talking, shopping, going to work, celebrating each other and their interactions- can completely change the culture of our streets.

Feb. 17 2014 09:27 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.