DOT vehicles temporarily separated from their drivers, parked outside Borough Hall on Nick LaPorte Place where it meets Stuyvesant Place.
A BAD CASE OF
I know that D.O.T. staffers walk. Not that I've actually seen them do it, mind you. But I have seen their cars parked all around the perimeter of Borough Hall (see photo above), and they're empty. However . . .
People who walk only in situations where it's not practical to drive--inside Borough Hall, for example--are not really walkers, and they're not pedestrians either. They're Drivers Temporarily Separated From Their Cars. They see the world mostly through a windshield.
That's their choice. Until their choice becomes our problem. I use 'our' here to refer to the sizable minority of people on the north shore who, like me, don't own cars and depend on public transportation and their own two feet to get around.
We vote. We pay taxes. And the transportation subsidy dollars we consume are tiny compared to the bureaucratic and infrastructure maintenance costs of our antediluvian one-person/one-car transportation system. Not to mention congestion, loss of productivity, and the impact on public health.
CROSSWALKS CALM TRAFFIC,
AND PROMOTE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Crosswalks give pedestrians the guidance they need to cross streets safely. They alert drivers to the need to slow down to accommodate those who need to cross. Yet our attempts to make local streets safer for pedestrians are blocked by D.O.T.'s windshield blindness.
DOT policymakers are drivers who make policy for drivers, not pedestrians. And they discount pedestrians' experience as "merely" anecdotal, when compared to their studies and statistics. This is science in the service of the status quo and nothing more.
STATISTICS VERSUS REALITY
When you think of what it costs to keep drivers driving on our roadways, the cost of making roadways safe for pedestrians to cross is, once again, tiny. So it's not a matter of money. It's a matter of intentional blindness to the realities Staten Island pedestrians face every day.
DOT typically relies on studies and statistics to determine the reality that pedestrians confront. They have no experience actually walking the streets whose safety they're supposed to regulate for everyone, not just drivers. So they hide behind the dubious authority of statistics.
Here's a taste of the real world that pedestrians confront around Borough Hall, particularly on weekdays:
NO MAINTENANCE at St. Marks Place at Hyatt Street. If they can't see this crosswalk, drivers won't slow down as they approach it and pedestrians won't risk using it.
NO ACCESS at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and St. Marks Place. To cross Hyatt Street safely, you have to go either to the top or the bottom of the hill. At the top, there's a deteriorating crosswalk. Near the bottom, you can dart across Hyatt Street as it turns, and then into the Baker Square island, from which you can cross to the north side of Hyatt. Most people, including me, won't bother and, without crosswalks, put themselves at risk, crossing a wide and busy street.
NO CROSSWALK to get you safely to the north side of Hyatt Street from the Baker Square traffic island.
NO SAFE WAY ACROSS ON THE OTHER SIDE, EITHER
NO SAFE WAY to the south side of Hyatt Street from the Baker Square traffic island, either. And because it's downhill on this side, cars tend to go faster here. If you can't step lively--as many seniors can't--it may be better not to step at all. That's not fair and it's not good public health policy, either. Seniors, like everybody else, need opportunities to walk more, not less.
TOO RISKY TO CROSS
SURE, YOU CAN SEE THE WHITE CAR ROLLING DOWN THE HILL, top right, but what about the one behind that--the one you can't see until you've already made the decision to cross? Is there time to make it to the other side safely? Without a crosswalk to guide you across and slow traffic down, you hesitate to risk crossing. Another impediment to mobility.
YET ANOTHER RISKY CORNER (SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!)
TRYING TO CROSS TO THE BUS SHELTER from the north side of Borough Hall, you'd better watch out for the cars that swing up and around from Bay Street. There's nothing between you and them but your legs.
COMING COURTHOUSE CONSTRUCTION IS NO REASON D.O.T.
CAN'T IMPROVE PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AROUND BOROUGH HALL
We're about to see a temporary but significant increase in the amount of construction and heavy vehicle activity in the area around the new county courthouse--in a lot bounded by Central Avenue, Hyatt Street and St. Marks Place.
We mustn't permit DOT to cite the temporary nature of this increase as a reason to delay the installation of the many new crosswalks we need now. We'll need these crossswalks even more with substantial new construction activity that's coming to Staten Island's most walkable neighborhood.
It's more than time to demand that DOT protect the rights to safety of pedestrians, its most neglected constituency.