Hats off to City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin for taking the lead on making Fourth Avenue safer. The two have penned a letter to DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan asking her department to ignore Community Board 6′s obtuse objection to the street makeover.
Two Brooklyn councilmen have sent a letter to transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking her to disregard a Park Slope community board’s vote by moving forward with a plan intended to make Fourth Avenue a safer thoroughfare.
“During our terms in elected office, there have been very few instances in which our position on an issue differs with that of a local Community Board, and doing so is not a decision we take lightly,” wrote Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, each of whom represents a district that contains a portion of Fourth Avenue. “However, given the severity of the safety risks along 4th Avenue, we respectfully but strongly disagree with CB6’s rejection of the proposal.”
On June 12, Community Board 6 overruled its transportation committee and voted against the city’s plan to remake Fourth Avenue, the anarchic dividing line between Park Slope and Gowanus. (Community Board 2, to the north, approved the plan.)
Between 2007 and 2011, 52 people were injured and one killed on the section of avenue bounded by Pacific and 15th streets.
Speeding is rampant. Crashes are common.
“Separate entrances for the north and southbound R train platforms mean that hundreds of subway riders cross the street on foot during peak hours near Pacific, Union, and 9th Streets,” wrote the councilmen. “In many cases, these pedestrians are offered only two-foot wide medians by the current design. In addition, several narrow intersections with limited visibility due to opposing left turns pose hazards for drivers that have contributed to scores of crashes in recent years.”
Board member Gary Reilly, with whom I have the pleasure of serving on the transportation committee, has the quote of the moment:
“This is really a matter of life and death,” Gary Reilly, a member of Community Board 6 who voted in favor of the plan, told me. “It is a major major safety issue on Fourth Avenue. And ultimately, if the community board can’t get it right. … I hope it gets put into play. One way or another, I think this is something that needs to get done.”
This letter alone will not guarantee a safer Fourth Avenue. Please voice your support and gratitude directly to the council members:
Brad Lander: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Levin: email@example.com
In a roundup titled “Progress Being Made on the Region’s Most Dangerous Roads,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign notes one exception:
Although New York City has led the way in making roads safer for all users in recent years, there have been some setbacks in the efforts to make one of New York City’s most dangerous roads safer for walking.
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, an initiative by New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to transform Fourth Avenue from one of the City’s most dangerous roads into “Brooklyn Boulevard” has faced opposition from some members of Community Board 6, which voted down NYCDOT’s plan to reduce speeding and provide more space for pedestrians on the 1.4-mile stretch of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, despite broad community support for the plan. Other segments of the plan have been implemented in Sunset Park and in Bay Ridge; Community Board 10 is expected to vote on its section of the plan tonight.
When people view Marty Markowitz as more progressive on transportation than a community board, you know something is wrong.
If you see Sonya Baehr, who’s quoted in the Brooklyn Paper as opposing DOT’s safety plan for Fourth Avenue, please ask her if she’s aware of these facts.
- With four fatalities in three years, Fourth Avenue tied for third place in the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s 2010 ranking of Brooklyn’s Most Dangerous Roads. [PDF]
- Fourth Avenue ranks second in terms of pedestrian and cyclist injuries in the area covered by the 78th Precinct, which overlaps with much of Community Board 6, based on stats from 2011 to 2013.
- Of the 10 Streets in Park Slope with the most crashes from 2011 to 2013, Fourth Avenue ranks first, beating out Flatbush Avenue and Grand Army Plaza. Pedestrians and cyclists represented 43% of the total injured.
- Three of the top four intersections with the most crashes in 2011 to 2013 in the area covered by the 78th Precinct were along 4th Avenue: Union Street, 9th Street, and 3rd Street. Not surprisingly, these are in locations where drivers can make opposing left turns.
- At 4th Avenue and 9th Street, pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 83% of total injuries from 2011 to 2013, largely due to conflicts with drivers turning left off of Fourth Avenue and the fact that its a major transit hub for residents on both sides of the avenue. CB6 board member James Bernard, who made the motion to reject the entire DOT safety plan, said, ““You have to take a left on Third Street and Ninth Street.“
- Of the top ten intersections with the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries in Park Slope, three 4th Avenue intersections–Union Street, 9th Street, and 3rd Street–took the second, fifth, and seventh spots respectively. Here’s James Bernard of CB6 again: “It’s ridiculous on its face to not utilize Third and Ninth [streets] when originally they were meant for increased traffic.”
And if you don’t run into Sonya Baehr, you should ask CB6 Board Members Tom Miskel, James Bernard, or Daniel Kummer instead. Ask them why CB6 voted against a plan that would save lives. Ask them why they did an end run around months of DOT community workshops, years of work by the Forth on Fourth Avenue committee, and the CB6 Transportation Committee.
Direct your inquires to:
Community Board 6, 250 Baltic Street
Brooklyn , New York 11201-6401
Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org recently explored Copenhagen and wrote a great piece about one of its best streets, Nørrebrogade. Automobile parking is practically non-existent there, yet the strip is as busy and vibrant as any commercial district anywhere in the world.
In city after city where people had priority over cars I saw small businesses, public spaces, and life in general — flourishing. How is it possible?! Don’t those businesses need cars to survive? What about emergency vehicle access? What about freight trucks? We are very good in the states at finding reasons we can’t do things; but even though I’m aware this is far beyond an apples-to-apples comparison, it does give me hope to know that there are places in the world where human beings live — and live well — without cars at the center of everything.
When I visited and rode down this street, it reminded me very much of Broadway through Soho or 5th and 7th Avenues in Park Slope. It was a perfect example of what happens when a city prioritizes the movement of people over the storage of their vehicles.
I live not too far from the Barclays Center and on occasion have ridden by the arena’s bike parking while an event was in progress. And on most of those occasions the arena’s many bike racks were empty.
There are a mix of reasons why the bike parking hasn’t be utilized to its fullest, but foremost among them would be the fact that it’s not secure or guarded. Leaving one’s bike locked up outside while attending a basketball game or concert is pretty much an advertisement that tells a thief, “No one will try to stop you, so have fun trying to saw through my u-lock for the next two hours.”
[UPDATE: A rep from the Barclays Center tells me that the bike parking is monitored 24 hours a day by the arena's security team.]
Wednesday night was the first attempt to change that with the debut of a secure bicycle valet service for people attending the National concert at the Barclays Center. Operated by Transportation Alternatives, the bike valet was free of charge. It also attracted a fair amount of press, with Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on hand to give interviews. To top it all off, two members of the National rode their bikes to the arena and checked them at the valet.
But the real test is how many people use it. So how did it go? I checked in with the bike valet at about 10:30, a little before The National show wrapped up and snapped a few pictures.
TA tells me that around 100 people checked bikes on Wednesday, and while that’s a drop in the bucket when compared with approximately 18,000 seats inside the Barclays Center, it’s a start. I have a feeling that the location of the bike parking doesn’t help drive traffic, since it’s behind the arena on the corner of Dean and 6th and largely invisible to the majority of people who get off of the subway and head straight into the center’s main entrance. More signage is one way to help let people know that this service exists, as is heavy promotion inside the arena itself.
But even though the bike valet received a fair amount of press before and after the concert, it won’t be press that drives its growth. Only by offering it as a regular service will it become more popular. Dean Street gets a lot of bike traffic, so offering a regular bike valet may create a positive feedback loop; as more people see the bike valet in use, more people will use it. I hope the Barclays Center figures out which events are most likely to attract bicycle riders and offers the service when appropriate. If it does it enough times, it may find that there’s demand year round.
As I poked around the bike valet toward the end of the evening, one bike stood out for me as indicative of what happens when an organization or company offers secure bicycle parking.
Above is a fully loaded WorkCycles Fr8, set up to transport two children. It’s also a somewhat expensive bike. This just isn’t the kind of bicycle you leave on an unsupervised Brooklyn bike rack for two or three hours while you attend a concert. To me, this bike showed what a difference offering secure bicycle parking can make. You want slow and considerate cyclists to ride on city streets? Offer them a safe place to park.
Of course, this being Brooklyn there has been some griping about the attention paid in the media to the bike valet. Here’s writer Ellen Freudenheim:
Imagine my surprise at reading in the hyper local news outlet DNA that Mayor Mike will show up tonight in Brooklyn to tout urban biking….but where? At Barclays Center to make a fuss over the mega-million dollar stadium’s embrace of valet bike parking.
Well, how about Mayor Mike on a bike showing up at some of other Brooklyn cultural institutions that have had valet biking for years– before, say Barclays even broke ground?
Look, I get it. The wounds from the “Battle for Brooklyn” are still fresh. But it is, in fact, remarkable that a mega-million dollar stadium is attempting to embrace valet bicycle parking, even if you think their motivations are suspect or count as little more than greenwashing. But here we are in 2013, after years of angry tabloid columns, lawsuits about bike lanes, and last-gasp hysteria about the danger of bicycles, and our billionaire mayor thought it was worth his while to come out to Brooklyn to stand behind a giant arena to answer questions for the press… about bike parking.
I’ll take it.
I’ve been appalled at the childish behavior of the residents of 150 Joralemon, who have taken to having their building’s maintenance staff pile bags of trash on the Citi Bike station outside their building.
As Kim Velsey says in this outstanding piece in the Observer, this is not how civilized city dwellers should act:
Co-op resident Nina Hackler told The Post: “There just isn’t enough room. Something has to give—and this time, it’s the bikes.”
Anyone with that attitude doesn’t belong in New York City. Comprising, accommodating other people and things, handling disputes without resorting to throwing garbage at things you don’t like—those are essential requirements for being able to live in this or any other city. Anyone who can’t deal with the inconveniences of sharing space with 8 million other people in a civilized way should seriously consider leaving.
There seems to be one thing the wealthy NIMBYs of Brooklyn Heights–and PPW–do not understand. You may own your apartment or your building, but you don’t own the shared sidewalk and street outside. That belongs to everyone.
Answering Dorothy Rabinowitz’ hyperbolic screed against the totalitarians seeking to reallocate a small amount of space away from cars and to bicycles, Slate’s Matt Yglesias writes that the “systematic over-allocation of public space in urban areas to cars” is the real “transportation authoritarianism.”
But without even knowing it, he’s answering Josh Greenman as much as he’s answering the Wall Street Journal. Greenman, you may recall, chastised bicycle advocates for essentially demonizing the car, and used this statement to make his point: “God forbid anyone in power should try to make life easier for those who dominate the roads.”
Perhaps the view is that automobile driving is associated with positive social externalities such that at the margin we want to encourage people to drive more and walk less. Or perhaps the view is that the goal of urban policy is not to maxmize the welfare of city dwellers but instead to maximize the wealth of downtown landowners by facilitating suburbanites’ commutes. But there’s no explicit articulation of this view.
Instead, the idea seems to be that since private automobiles are a highly space-inefficient way of transporting people through an urban area, they therefore deserve massive subsidy in the form of additional space-allocation. After all, if private automobiles were made to get by with the same amount of space dedicated to pedestrians, they’d be impractical for many uses. But would that be a bad outcome? Why? And bad for whom?