COLONIE – A 62-year-old woman was hit and killed while she was trying to cross Central Avenue in Colonie Tuesday morning.
Borziloke Zakolli of Colonie had made it halfway across when she was hit by two different cars and killed at the scene.
A key fact that none of the reports mentioned is that the signalized pedestrian crossings on this stretch of Central Avenue, also known as Route 5, are spaced almost a half-mile apart. Zakolli was attempting to cross between Tull Drive and Breeman Street. In order to get to a signalized crosswalk, she would have had to walk almost a quarter-mile to an intersection, and then double back another quarter-mile, which would have added at least eight minutes to her journey (plus time to wait for a WALK signal and cross).
In 2014, NYSDOT completed a “very aggressive” 18-month study of the corridor which found that 75 percent of people crossed outside of crosswalks or against crossing signals, something a NYSDOT spokesperson called “pathetic.” But what’s even more pathetic is that NYSDOT hasn’t yet re-engineered a road where 14 pedestrians were killed between 2009 and 2015 — a road where someone is struck by a driver more than once each week, on average.
There are many factors — speed, driver error, failure to yield — that contribute to crashes, but the decision to prioritize vehicular throughput over pedestrian safety was certainly no accident. High-speed, multi-lane suburban arterials can’t be made safe for walking simply through education, enforcement and minor changes to signals and signage. Yes, adding a leading pedestrian interval is a great idea, but it’s not useful if signalized intersections are so far apart that people won’t use them.
Given the desire lines across Central Avenue — a classic “stroad” — accommodations for safe mid-block crossings must be made. But because Central Avenue is so wide — two travel lanes in each direction plus a two-way left turn lane (TWLTL) — and because traffic moves so fast (it’s signed for 40 mph), a painted crosswalk won’t be enough. Fortunately, Central Avenue’s center lane could easily be retrofitted with wide midblock pedestrian safety islands, and there may even be enough space to provide safety islands and left turn bays at intersections.
Why stop there? The Capitol District Transit Authority’s BusPlus Red Line runs along Central Avenue, so perhaps those curbside lanes could be converted to exclusive bus lanes. Such a change would be a major upgrade for transit riders, and could potentially move more people than a general use lane full of single-occupant vehicles. But an idea like moving people instead of vehicles seems to be a non-starter in most American metros.
We used Streetmix to come up with a before and after:
The crashes that have taken place on Central Avenue are the result of a transportation planning mindset that has sacrificed safety for driver convenience. But luckily, the decisions that led to such dangerous designs can be reversed. After a driver killed a child who was walking in a park adjacent to the Scajaquada Expressway in Buffalo, Governor Cuomo reacted quickly and decisively to make the road safer. It’s time that state, local and agency leaders get serious about eliminating needless death and injury on Central Avenue too.