June 3, 2019 By Max Murray
Council Member Paul Vallone introduced a bill last week that aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities through the introduction of a new traffic device that would be powered by solar energy.
The device would provide drivers with an advanced warning through flashing lights when a pedestrian crosses the street in designated areas. In addition, the system would also illuminate the crosswalks.
This enhancement, which would be powered by solar energy, is activated by a motion sensor or push button.
Vallone said that the system—used in states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida–provides another layer of safety for pedestrians and is easily installed with existing infrastructure.
“In the critical interest of keeping our City’s pedestrians protected, we must proactively look for new and innovative ways to make our streets safer for all,” Vallone said in a statement. “Solar powered illuminated crosswalks have been successfully implemented in other parts of the country and would be an effective way to improve safety for our pedestrians.
Vallone’s bill comes almost a year since the death of 17-year-old Madeline Shershen who was killed by an elderly driver while crossing the intersection of Utopia Parkway and 16th Avenue in Whitestone. Vallone said the system would lower the chance of pedestrian deaths such as Shershen’s.
“My niece Madeline Shershen died last June in a horrible crash where the driver did not see her. This new type of street design could help make pedestrians more visible to drivers,” said Rita Barravecchio, aunt of Madeline Shershen. “We need to make our streets safer, and by doing so, we will save lives and prevent tragedies like that of my niece’s.”
Pedestrian deaths make up the majority of traffic fatalities, according to the NYC Department of Transportation. Overall pedestrian fatalities, however, have declined since the start of the Vision Zero Initiative back in 2014.
According to research conducted at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), illuminated crosswalks, once implemented, have immediate positive effects on driver behavior. The FHWA states that the likelihood of a driver yielding to pedestrians is much greater with systems such as these.
The bill has been referred to the Transportation Committee by Vallone for a hearing. The date of the hearing has yet to be confirmed.