Vol. 13, No. 8 April 20 - May 3, 2000


Oval Traffic Safety Concerns Mount


rivers on Reservoir Oval, the street that encircles Williamsbridge Oval Park, can drive the long loop from Bainbridge Avenue back to Bainbridge Avenue, without encountering a single traffic device that might slow them down. With so many people -- especially children -- crossing to and from the park, some community residents are worried that the situation is an accident waiting to happen.

"I think it's extremely dangerous," said Rich Gans, a Norwood resident and chair of the Bronx chapter of Transportation Alternatives, a cyclist advocacy group. "The Oval has no stop signs and, naturally, cars use it as a thoroughfare route and as a bypass corridor from Gun Hill Road and Webster Avenue to Bainbridge Avenue."

Gans also says that the danger is elevated because there are no sidewalks around the park, so when people leave the Oval, they exit directly onto the street. Of particular concern is the park entrance at Van Cortlandt Avenue and Bainbridge because parkgoers must walk through a long tunnel to exit, literally giving pedestrians "tunnel-vision" to oncoming traffic.

Natly Esnard, who lives on Wayne Avenue just off Reservoir Oval, said she sees cars whizzing around the park all the time. "People need to slow down," she said. "I think somebody's going to get hurt."

Gans and members of Community Board 7 are pushing city agencies for traffic safety improvements around the Oval. Andrew Laiosa, chair of the Traffic, Transportation and Public Safety Committee of CB7, said the board requested that the Department of Transportation (DOT) install traffic calming devices to slow down the cars.

Laiosa and Gans have plenty of suggestions for the DOT, which include the installation of speed bumps, stop signs, raised crosswalks, and neckdowns, which extend sidewalks to narrow streets and slow down cars.

According to Laiosa, James Kilkenny, the DOT's Bronx commissioner, and the borough engineer, said they would consider installing traffic calming devices, but that the agency must conduct studies, which could take years. And since there have been no pedestrian accidents, the street that hugs the park doesn't make the DOT's top-priority list, he added.

Laiosa and Gans said the DOT dismissed installing speed bumps because they don't give sufficient warning to drivers due to the curve of the road. "The one thing they said could be done quickly was the installation of mph [miles per hour] signs," Gans said. The DOT did not respond to inquiries from the Norwood News by press time.

CB7 members think this is the perfect time to implement slow-speed legislation that was passed last year, which allows local governments to set local speed limits as low as 15 miles per hour if it's done in conjunction with the installation of traffic calming measures.

At the same time, Mosholu Preservation Corporation (MPC), the nonprofit that publishes the Norwood News, is pushing to have neckdowns installed at the five entrances of the park for added street safety, according to Dart Westphal, the organization's president. Westphal will meet with DOT and Parks Department officials in the next few weeks to discuss the measure.

Gans hopes the changes come soon. "It's nothing less than a miracle that a child hasn't been hit by a car," he said.

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