Tonight: Give DOT Your Ideas for a Safer Park Circle

park_circle.jpgWhat would you change?

DOT’s pedestrian projects group will present tonight at a public workshop about Park Circle, the roundabout at the southern tip of Prospect Park. Sponsored by Community Boards 7, 12, and 14, this is a preliminary meeting to define problems and collect ideas before improvements are designed. Given the vortex of auto traffic swirling so close to the park and the Parade Grounds, the emphasis is on safety. The proximity of the Kensington Stables also makes for an unusual modal angle: In addition to walking and biking, horse circulation will factor into the discussion.

A DOT flyer shows recent pedestrian projects at the Bronx County Courthouse, Grand Army Plaza, and Madison Square as inspiration for what could take shape at Park Circle.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at 312 Coney Island Avenue, where the avenue meets Park Circle.

  • God, everything about Park Circle needs to change. I live on Fort Hamilton Parkway, and it’s not easy to get to or from my apartment and Prospect Park by any means. On foot, by bike… even in a car it’s a huge pain in the ass. I haven’t tried it on horseback (yet!) but I can’t imagine the horses enjoy it very much.

    Unfortunately, the interchange with the Prospect Expressway just to the west — is a major part of the accessibility problem — probably can’t be fixed without major reconstruction. It’s a heinous, sprawling example of Robert Moses-era car-centric urban planning.

    I’m disappointed that I can’t make tonight’s meeting, because I’m curious to hear what ideas the community has for this area. Can I expect a follow-up post from Streetsblog?

  • I’m thrilled to hear that DOT is tackling this disaster of an intersection.

    Highest priority for me is a clear, safe bike connection to the Ocean Parkway bike path. Right now there’s nothing at all, and all the possible connections are highway-style ramps in desperate need of traffic calming.

    We also need to reclaim the enormous amount of wasted pavement in the circle.

  • LN

    Circles are probably not the best thing for shared city streets, really thats not what they are designed to do. They are designed to move cars without stopping.

    There are circles at 3 of the 4 corners of central park, a major bike lane leads to the westside ones, but leaves you to fend for yourself, and risk your life to move through them.

  • Rhywun

    I’ll say the same thing I said about Chatham Square: the major through-way should go through an underpass, and the car part of the square/circle should follow the building line, thus maximizing the open space in the middle.

    That mess in the lower-left corner looks like it could complicate things, though.

  • Time for a woonerf, perhaps? Lay down some rumble strips on all access points, get rid of all the lights, put up “Yield to Horses” signs, and make everyone share and go sloooooow.

    Barring cars permanently from the Park would eliminate one variable, too.

  • We’ll keep you posted Ian.

  • this is a horrible intersection and results in reckless automobile behavior.

    here is Stable Brooklyn’s plan:

    http://www.stablebrooklyn.com/images/stories/stable%20brooklyn%20report-final1.pdf

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    It’s a “round-about,” and yet it is not. LN is correct when writing, “Circles are…designed to move cars without stopping.” But then Park Circle, like many “rotaries” in New York City, has traffic lights that stop traffic, contrary to the basic concept. One solution might be to get away from the circular geometry altogether. However, that possibility is contingent on Park Circle not being included in Prospect Park’s “Scenic Landmark” designation.

  • Eric, thanks for making me look up the term woonerf!

  • Barring cars permanently from the Park would eliminate one variable, too.

    Converting the Prospect Expressway to a two-lane busway and a greenway would help a lot as well.

  • Traffic circles are designed to prevent cars from stopping. That’s a terrible idea at the base of a park. I had a thought on how the space could be reclaimed by converting the circle to a standard bi-directional road:

    http://flickr.com/photos/seankenney/3294917624/sizes/l/in/photostream/

  • Lee

    Cobble stones, make it smaller, make a bicycle/horse priority lane (different color), and remove the rest of the signs.

    Cobble stones! or at least bricks… this will make all the cars go slow. It’s amazing how well things will work when the cars are forced to slow down. Plus they last at least 100 years.

  • I’m interested to know how things went last night. Cobblestones may be good for horses, but they’re difficult for bikes, and awful for skates.

    The circle is not the problem, it’s that it’s a circle that’s at least four lanes in diameter (and probably more – since when is that good traffic engineering?), which basically nullifies any potential traffic calming effect. Something along the lines of Sean’s proposal may be what’s necessary to make this thing at all pedestrian-friendly.

  • Brooklyn

    How did it go?

    I imagine huge yellow highway signs at every entrance, with blinking lights, warning “CIRCLE AHEAD – 15MPH – RADAR ENFORCED – YIELD RIGHT.” The circle is paved with cobblestones and contains slightly raised cycle/horse tracks that double as speed humps. The cycle tracks either cut the diameter to an “inner circle” car-free sanctuary (this is how riders lead their horses across) or follows the circumference of the circle, allowing access to the Park, Parade Grounds, or streets.

    The tracks form a slow-speed barrier from any direction that cars arrive, and have signs stating “YIELD TO PEDS/HORSES/BIKES.”

  • lee

    they forgot to draw in all the police officer’s personal cars parked on the sidewalk on coney island ave just south of the circle.

  • lee,

    “Horse lane of a different color” — I like that.

    To echo “Brooklyn,” I meant to includes peds and bikes among those things to which cars should yield in my earlier post, though peds and bikes would be wise to yield to horses, too, since those 1,000-lb. animals sometimes don’t do what they’re told.

    And Mark, glad to introduce you to woonerfs.

  • Beth Segal

    The city needs to make Park Circle safer for pedestrians. The long term plans the city presented last night are exciting but here are a couple of short term fixes that will help safety:

    At Coney Island Avenue, Parkside Avenue and PPSW, there needs to be a clear line BEFORE the pedestrian cross walks indicating where cars should stop.

    Police need to enforce the laws. There is a police station on Park Circle but I have never once seen any driving violations issued. Just for the record, yesterday I was crossing from the park at Park Side Avenue when 8 cars ran the red light, making it very dangerous to cross the street.

    The pedestrian light at PPSW is too short and needs to be extended so we can get across the street.

    The bank entrance is a nightmare. As it is now, cars coming from the circle up PPSW cross a double line to get into the bank. Those same cars block both traffic and the pedestrian cross walk. Fix: change the direction of the driveway so that cars enter on the circle AND put a gate at the entrance so cars are sure to stop for pedestrians. The gate will be essential because this sidewalk is heavily used by pedestrians and there are a lot of old people in the building beside the bank who can’t jump quickly out of the way of the cars. Finally, put trees on the sidewalk so cars don’t drive from the street onto the sidewalk to get to the bank (which they do now!).

    And lastly, the city needs to de-ice the sidewalk in front of the police station on the circle as well as on all the pedestrian cross ways (Sherman St. Prospect Ave., etc.) and Caton Avenue over Ocean Parkway so that pedestrians can actually use the sidewalks instead of walking in the streets with insane drivers.

  • Warren

    LN and Sean: You are getting your terms totally confused. A) This is not a roundabout, it’s some kind of bastard traffic circle. B) It is roundabouts, not traffic circles, that are designed to keep all modes moving with yield control rather than with signals.

  • Warren

    Oh, and Ben Fried – same goes for you. 🙂 Streetsblog writers of all peoople should read up on what does and does not make a roundabout and not be contributing to all the misinformation people have.

  • Sholom Brody

    I just wrote up a whole blog post on the meeting at the Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn page here:
    http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/transportation-alternatives-brooklyn/blog/2009/02/20/park-circle-cb7-workshopmeeting/

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