Winter 2004, p.15

Safe Streets
New T.A. Study Shows Midtown X-Walk Barricades Don’t Work

Pedestrians ignore the barricades at 5th Avenue and 50th Street in Manhattan.
Pedestrians ignore the barricades at 5th Avenue and 50th Street in Manhattan.

Transportation Alternatives released a new study in January that showed that the midtown pedestrian barricades and recessed crosswalks installed in 1997/1998 at 5th and 6th Avenues and 49th and 50th Streets encourage jay walking, do not improve pedestrian safety and do little to move traffic. T.A. recommends that the City restore corner crosswalks as well as Leading Pedestrian Intervals (a three second head start for pedestrians) during times when ThruStreet rules are not in effect.

In the spring of 2003, T.A. conducted detailed traffic and pedestrian counts at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 50th Street, where the barricades are installed, and, as a control, the intersection of 5th Avenue and 48th Street, which is un-barricaded. Analysis of the data showed that:

  • The 50th Street barricades discourage pedestrian traffic—94% more people use the 48th Street north crosswalk than the 50th Street displaced crosswalk.
  • The 50th Street barricades promote jaywalking, thereby endangering more pedestrians – 10.16% of people jaywalked at the 50th Street intersection, compared to only 5.42% at 48th Street.
  • The 50th Street barricades are not expediting right-hand turns—An average of 32% of motorists turn right off of 50th Street, compared to an average of 36% of moto rists turning right off of 48th Street.
  • The 50th Street barricades are not easing traffic congestion—on average, 128 vehicles travel from 48th Street through or on to 5th Avenue every 15 minutes. Meanwhile, only 112 vehicles from 50th Street are able to travel through or turn right on to 5th Avenue.
  • The advent of the New York City Department of Transportation’s ThruStreets Program in the Fall of 2002, which bans motorists from turning from 10 am to 6 pm on nine through streets from 36th to 60th Streets, takes away the main rationale for the barricades; they were intended to reduce conflict between turning motorists and pedestrians.

Given these findings, T.A. calls on the City to remove the pedestrian barricades at 50th and 49th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenue immediately, and install Leading Pedestrian Intervals. It is clear that these barricades are not working. In addition, the City DOT and the New York Police Department should extend a moratorium on installing any new pedestrian barricades until they have thoroughly studied the effects of the barricades on pedestrian behavior and safety and vehicle movement and congestion at each intersection where barricades are currently installed.

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