May 18, 2018 By Tara Law
Two weeks after 9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero was killed by a driver on Northern Boulevard, the Department of Transportation has taken steps to make the thoroughfare safer.
The DOT has put in place changes that aim to make the boulevard safer for pedestrians to cross, particularly when vehicles make left turns.
Ampuero was struck and killed on April 30 at the intersection of 70th Street and Northern Boulevard by a driver turning left. The driver, 86-year-old Juan B. Jimenez, struck the young victim in the crosswalk and fled the scene. He was arrested nearby.
Following the incident, the DOT has installed a “leading pedestrian interval”— which gives pedestrians time to start walking across the street before cars get a green light to turn— at the intersection where Ampuero was killed. The DOT has also installed leading pedestrian intervals at other intersections on Northern Boulevard between 58th Street and Junction Boulevard, a DOT spokesperson said.
Left turns like the one that killed Ampuero are considered to be particularly dangerous for pedestrians. Left turning vehicles are three times as likely to kill or severely injure pedestrians or cyclists compared to right turning vehicles, according to a DOT study published in 2016. Vehicles turning left killed 108 pedestrians and cyclists in New York between 2010 and 2014, according to the study.
The department’s decision to install leading pedestrian intervals is a “step in the right direction,” said Assemblymember Michael Dendekker. However, he added, more needs to be done.
Dendekker plans to introduce a bill that would lead to the creation of special intersections called a “Barnes dance” or a “pedestrian scramble.” These intersections bring all vehicles to a complete halt—via red lights—and pedestrians in every direction cross at the same time.
“That’s what we need here,” Dendekker said during a meeting with the DOT last week. “We need to make sure this never happens again.”
The DOT is currently studying the Barnes dance, as well as “daylighting”— which involves removing parking spaces near intersections so drivers can see pedestrians more easily—and adding longer leading pedestrian intervals, a DOT spokesperson said.
State Senator Jose Peralta said that he was “pleased” with the DOT’s efforts to make the road safer.
Peralta said that he will continue to advocate for his school zone speed camera bill, which would expand the use of the cameras to more schools and for longer hours, and make the use of the cameras at certain schools permanent.
The intersection where Giovanni was fatally injured— 70th Street and Northern Boulevard— is within eight blocks of five schools.
The speed cameras are aimed to help law enforcement to crack down on drivers who speed and to encourage more responsible behavior.
“It is insane to think that a boy lost his life as he was crossing the street with a walk green light,” Peralta said. “It is vital that we not only hold reckless drivers accountable and take them off the road, but we implement the necessary road and pedestrian safety changes to protect New Yorkers. I welcome the first changes DOT has made to Northern Boulevard, and look forward to working with them to make this corridor safe for all.”