In a recent study, Gun Hill Road, especially the section between Bainbridge and Webster Avenues in Norwood, was named the Bronx’s most dangerous street for pedestrians and drivers. (Photo by Adi Talwar)
By Alexander Gibbons
In 2006, Ellen McHugh, 66, was struck by a city bus while crossing the intersection at Bainbridge Avenue and Gun Hill Road. She died soon after. Six weeks before that, another senior, Kenneth Filacchione, was killed in a hit-and-run accident at the same intersection. A total of five pedestrians were killed on Gun Hill Road in 2006 and 2007.
Because of this cluster of deaths and a total of 57 serious accidents between 2006 and 2008, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) named Gun Hill the most dangerous street in the Bronx, with the intersection at Bainbridge Avenue being particularly perilous.
The Grand Concourse and Broadway (where two women were struck by a vehicle last Friday) were named the Bronx’s second and third most dangerous roads, respectively.
While acknowledging the inherent dangers associated with Gun Hill Road, some local observers contend the traffic safety issues are compounded by impatient drivers and pedestrians putting themselves and others in harms way.
The Gun Hill Road corridor snakes, east to west, through the north Bronx for 3.5 miles, ending just short of Mosholu Parkway. Along this route are several schools, a Metro North stop, a hospital, a nursing home, and over 250 businesses.
Cars, trucks and buses jockey for position on the busy 4-lane road while hurried pedestrians cross during lulls in traffic, regardless of whether or not they see a “walk” sign.
Maribele Gonzales, a crossing guard with the 52nd Police Precinct who overlooks the corner of Kings College Place and Gun Hill Road, sees the congestion every day. “There’s too much traffic, in the morning and in the afternoon,” says Gonzales.
Roberto Garcia, the senior director of community affairs at Montefiore Medical Center, acknowledged the hazardous nature of Gun Hill. Garcia said ensuring traffic runs safely and smoothly on Gun Hill Road is a priority for Montefiore, which has its main campus located on the busy street. He says the city is doing all it can to make the road safer.
“Montefiore has been working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) for many years,” said Garcia, “Commissioner [Constance] Moran has done everything she could do to help.”
A spokesperson for the DOT, Nicole Garcia, refrained from making any remarks concerning Gun Hill Road, but did mention recent efforts made by the DOT to make New York streets safer. “The DOT has undertaken the largest traffic-calming initiatives in the nation to target our most vulnerable pedestrian groups,” Garcia said.
Crosswalk lights with countdown signals, repainted lines that make lanes more clear and the removal of certain parking meters to add clearance to certain intersections are examples of improvements made with traffic safety in mind, Garcia said.
According to Garcia, drivers and pedestrians account for a large part of the safety issues on Gun Hill Road.
“The biggest issue I see is that people can be impatient,” said Garcia, “that can mean putting yourself at risk.” Garcia recalls seeing people cross Gun Hill Road with walkmen or ipod headphones on, oblivious to oncoming traffic. He’s seen drivers ignore ambulances and other emergency vehicles heading towards Montefiore and impatient commuters making U-turns.
Many can see the problems on Gun Hill Road, but some say they’re not affected, or see the traffic as a non issue. Jose Arpi, who runs a hot dog stand on the corner of Gun Hill Road and Bainbridge, seemed skeptical when told of the study’s results. “There’s a lot of traffic, but it’s not that big of a deal,” Arpi said. “I’ve never seen any accidents.”
Frank Vasta, a Norwood resident, shared a similar reaction. “I can see how it could be a problem,” Vasta said, “but, personally, I’ve had no problems with traffic.”
Still, problems remain. Pedestrians can regularly be seen jay walking, dodging cars and trucks, many of which drive too fast to begin with. When Gonzalez sees pedestrians in violation of safety rules, she brandishes her trusty whistle to grab their attention. “A lot of people don’t listen to me,” Gonzales said, “so, that’s what the whistle’s for.”
Note: This article appears in this week's edition of the Norwood News.