Lights give pedestrians little time to navigate 12 lanes
Raheim Davis doesn’t like crossing Bruckner Boulevard at East 138th Street, but he has little choice. He’s staying at the Willow Avenue Shelter, east of the Bruckner, and everything he needs or wants to do is on the other side of the 12-lane thoroughfare.
“Going to the park, the store, the laundromat, going to see a girl,” he said, they’re all across the way.
The traffic lights give Davis 35 seconds to cross the 250-foot wide intersection.
Many others who work, study, get medical care or live on the east side of the Bruckner are in the same pickle as Davis.
In a bid to make crossing the street less chaotic, the city’s Department of Transportation recently painted two bike lanes along East 138th Street, hoping that narrower driving lanes would slow down vehicles. But crossing Bruckner Boulevard remains a fraught experience for many people.
In the two months from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, there were 22 accidents there, according to statistics compiled by the Police Department.
“Even if you are in good health, you will not make it,” said Jesus Perez, who is in his early 40s, and crosses the intersection to get to work in Port Morris. “It doesn’t give you enough time to cross.”
That’s because the DOT doesn’t expect people to make it across in one go. The lights are timed to allow people “to cross Bruckner Boulevard to the center island,” not to get to the other side, wrote Bronx DOT Commissioner Constance Moran to Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, who had asked the agency to keep the light on Bruckner red longer.
Nevertheless, in response to the councilwoman, the agency added five more seconds for pedestrians to cross. “The crossing times are adequate even for slower paced pedestrians,” wrote Moran.
In addition to creating the bike lanes, the DOT raised the curbs earlier this year in an effort to protect pedestrians on the traffic island. But pedestrians say the measures haven’t helped.
The new bike lanes, painted with dotted lines, are regularly ignored, they say. During a recent midday visit, there were no bikes in sight, and cars drove over the lines. And in spite of the raised the curbs, some pedestrians said they continue to feel unsafe waiting on them.
“I’m standing there thinking about which way I’m going to jump,” said Stan Ash, who was visiting a friend in the area.
There are a lot of people who can’t jump. On their way to or from Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Wellness Center at Port Morris on East 138th Street, patients hobble or roll across the Bruckner. Parents staying at the BronxWorks shelter for families on Willow Avenue often plunge stroller-first into the street.
Gerardo Lopez said he sometimes waits for the bus outside his building at the northeast corner of the intersection, takes it across Bruckner Boulevard and gets off on the other side.
“I feel safer that way,” he said.
Cynthia Jones, his neighbor, said she often waits for a bus or truck to drive straight across the intersection so she can huff along beside it, using the vehicle as a bulwark against oncoming traffic.
“They’re making U-turns, they’re going crossways—it’s a bad street,” she said.
Some drivers said there aren’t enough traffic signs at the intersection. Some of the signs that are there shrink from publicity.
One signpost forbidding turns leans backward, a dent from a car fender at its base. A “truck route” sign hangs crookedly from a cement column. The metal sign-holder on a lamppost is empty.
The many trucks going through the intersection need more notice than cars to brake and shift and get into the right lane, and some truckers said they aren’t getting it.
“Just one sign when you get where the action is,” said Jonathan Oberko, a truck driver who makes daily deliveries to a store at the corner of East 138th Street and the Bruckner. He gestured at a faded “school X-ing” sign stenciled on the asphalt by the northwestern corner of the intersection.
“Who cares about it? It’s just some paint that’s falling off,” Oberko said.
Some of the medians are fading too. One that was near the school crossing stencil has crumbled, a process accelerated by the cars and trucks that drive over it in the frenzy of lane changing, Oberko said.
The other medians are littered with garbage that sits on layers of sand and gravel and is stirred by the wind.
“It’s a lot of dust over there,” said Davis. “It kind of blinds you.”
Judy Brown, who crosses the intersection every day to get to work, wishes she had an alternative.
“At rush hour, you’re crossing the street with a prayer,” she said.