Friday, January 23, 2009

Loading Zone Dishonesty Kills Children

You've probably heard about the horrific crash that killed two young children in Chinatown yesterday. Police are currently saying that the driver, Chao Fu, intended to double-park his van in the bike lane while he got out to make a delivery. Instead, he left the van in reverse and the wheels turned, so that after he got out it backed up onto the sidewalk and into a daisy-chain of pre-schoolers.

We already knew that double-parking was inconvenient in many ways. We also knew it was dangerous: it blocks the view of other drivers so that they can't see people and vehicles. It forces bicyclists into the main roadway, where they can be hit by speeding motorists. It can block emergency vehicles from getting down the street. Now we have a new way: double-parked vehicles are less constrained by other cars around them, so if they get out of control they can easily kill.

Last month I discussed vehicle loading zones in the context of the Grand Street cycle track controversy. The fact of the matter is that people need places to load and unload things from cars and trucks, especially in a busy commercial corridor like East Broadway. When the DOT fails to set up dedicated loading zones and underprices curbside parking, all the spots get taken up by residents and shopkeepers who feed the meters. In the past, the DOT didn't want to go up against the residents and shopkeepers, so they let people double-park for loading and unloading, leading us to the current situation where delivery drivers are given the choice between waiting hours for a free spot or breaking the law.

There were clearly other improvements that could prevent future carnage. Bollards could have helped. Increased parking enforcement could have helped - but there's no sense ticketing double-parkers without giving them a workable alternative. What East Broadway - and the rest of the city - needs is well-designed, enforced loading zones. Let's do it before more people get killed.

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