Is Northern Boulevard the new “Boulevard of Death?” One advocacy group thinks so.
Following another pedestrian fatality on the busy Queens corridor over the weekend, Transportation Alternatives released a statement arguing that the city needs to make more of an effort in redesigning parts of Northern Boulevard before another tragedy occurs.
“This is a crisis. Northern Boulevard does not protect vulnerable street users, especially seniors, children, and the disabled,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
Police were called to the corner of 108th Street and Northern Boulevard on Sunday around 5:20 a.m. after the driver of a Toyota Highlander struck a 70-year-old man, according to investigators. The man, who police have not identified pending family notification, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver, a 40-year-old woman, waited for police to arrive and, so far, she has not been charged in the case, according to cops.
The man’s death marks the fourth pedestrian fatality as a result of reckless driving on Northern Boulevard this year and the ninth since the start of 2017, White said.
Transportation Alternatives is now urging the city to redesign sections of Northern Boulevard in the same way it did for Queens Boulevard, which was once commonly referred to as the “Boulevard of Death.”
There hasn’t been a single pedestrian fatality in the stretch of Queens Boulevard where the city Department of Transportation has implemented street safety improvements under the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Pedestrian injuries have dropped by 45 percent and crashes in general have decreased by 17 percent, according to a DOT report released in March.
“Residents along the Northern Boulevard corridor from Long Island City to Bayside are still waiting for the kind of comprehensive, lifesaving redesign that Queens Boulevard has undergone in recent years,” White said. “Due to its car-oriented design and lack of safe accommodation for people, Northern Boulevard remains needlessly deadly for everyone who dares to use it — especially pedestrians and bicyclists.”
A DOT spokeswoman said the de Blasio administration has taken an “aggressive approach” to improving pedestrian safety on Northern Boulevard since 2014 but acknowledged more still needs to be done.
“Tragically, we are still seeing too much loss of life and so DOT pledges to redouble our efforts to make Northern Boulevard safer, including engaging with the local community on a vision for a comprehensive roadway redesign,” the spokeswoman added.
While the DOT has already installed pedestrian islands, curb extensions and upgraded crosswalks at many key intersections, White said safer “intersection geometry” and protected bike lanes should be a priority.
“The lack of urgency after nine deaths in less than two years is frankly unacceptable,” he added.