On Path to Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT Plans Safer Way Across BQE On-Ramp

A redesign of this Atlantic Avenue on-ramp to the BQE should make walking to Brooklyn Bridge Park easier and safer. Image: Google Maps

Just one of the many problems with running an interstate highway through the heart of an urban area is what to do with the on-ramps and off-ramps. Motorists accustomed to freeway speeds, or eager to reach them, can drive more aggressively than normal and without as much regard for pedestrians and cyclists. At one on-ramp to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, where increasing numbers of people are crossing to reach the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT hopes to make things safer with a new intersection design and an end to right turns on red [PDF].

DOT proposes putting a new traffic island in the middle of the Atlantic Avenue/BQE on-ramp. The island cuts the crossing distance for pedestrians, previously 80 feet, into two pieces, creating a safer path for those headed to the park.

The redesign shortens crossing distances for pedestrians and prevents illegal turns across their right-of-way. Image: NYC DOT

Extending back from the island will be a line of bollards and striping to more clearly divide the right turn lane from the through lane: no more right turns from the left lane. The drivers waiting in the right turn lane will also have to wait for a proper green light to turn onto the highway. The intersection had been one of the few in the city where right turns on red were allowed, though only during the morning rush.

Last year, DOT reduced the right-turn-on-red hours at the on-ramp, but neighborhood leaders including City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Dan Squadron continued to push for additional safety upgrades.

Additionally, east-bound drivers turning left onto the highway ramp tended to illegally run a red light due to a confusingly placed traffic signal, according to DOT. In the re-design, a second traffic island with a new signal should make it clear to left-turning drivers that they have to wait for a green light.

The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 approved the plans for the on-ramp earlier this week by a vote of 11 to 0.

During the same meeting, DOT also presented some changes [PDF] to its plans for safer Brooklyn Bridge Park access at Old Fulton Street. There, additional safety improvements like new sidewalk extensions at the intersection of Vine and Doughty Street and an extended median on Old Fulton were paired with the elimination of one sidewalk bulb-out due to community input.

  • Guest

    I bike by here all the time, it’s the single scariest portion of my ride since cars could be turning in to me from basically any direction. What I usually end up doing is riding in the left hand side of what should be the left through lane (westbound) because cars in that lane will definitely turn in and not see me; the risk is that those cars have no room to pass safely but may do so anyhow.

    I totally, absolutely welcome this change.

  • J

    These are great changes to make this area safer, and I can’t wait for them to be implemented. Kudos to Lander and Squadron for pushing for these changes. My only suggestion for improvement would be to make the ped island wider by extending it west. This would give peds a larger space to wait, while forcing left turn movements onto the highway to do so at a slower speed. Also, the city may want to consider physically separating the right turn lane leading onto the highway from the through lane continuing west on Atlantic. This would prevent cars on Hicks Street from driving straight to enter the highway and would also keep cars from trying to turn onto the highway from the through lane.

  • moocow

    Hey J, I was at the meeting and I think DoT has those two issues covered. The crossing of the on ramp will have a long ped-only walk cycle there.(That timing is new as well)  That isn’t meant to be an island to wait on. I believe it is meant to do just what you say, slow down cars crossing that crosswalk.
    And supposedly the right turn lane will have bollards to the left to prevent the cutting in that goes on from the through lane.

    One thing that struck me as the unspoken elephant in that room the other night: all this effort to do the NYPD’s job.  Their enforcement of the City streets is not working, so this is how we have to save ourselves.

  • J

    @twowheel:disqus Thanks for the info! I’m glad to hear that they’re already on top of these issues. As for NYPD, yes it is a part of their job, but they have shown little interest in enforcement, and Bloomberg has been reluctant to push them toward better traffic enforcement. Even if they did do a better job of enforcement, I’d still favor self-enforcing street design (as seen here), which makes it difficult to break the rules in the first place.

  • A problem appears to be that the on ramp entrances are angled so cars can speed in (and off) at highway speeds. If the turning radius was tightened, cars would have to slow to TURN to enter the ramp, and not just merge in.

  • Ragger

    yes, the island needs to be bigger on the west side and be curved to follow the eastbound turn radius – which will make the turn from the westbound through lane >90 degrees and impossible to make. I have been standing at the westboung red light to the ramp, when the pedestrians have the extended green, only to see them practically been mowed down by the speeding through lane turners.

  • carma

    @Jamesboat:disqus The problem with this ramp is that even if you can “angle” your turn at a high speed, whats ahead is a stop sign in which you are forced to slow down to a dead stop anyways.
    plus the entrance ramp is a horrible design.  there is literally no room to “merge” in.  ive seen too many close calls with clueless drivers not knowing how to merge into the bqe at that entrance.  

  • Real Brooklynite

    How about this? Close the ramps altogether.

  • J

    @668e07d88102807acca5c0c0af36670f:disqus Seriously! How many injuries and deaths would be avoided if that monstrosity was gone? Not to mention increased real estate values, less pollution, less noise, and fewer expensive intersection fixes like this one.

  • Wonder if they’ll also cut back the two left turn lanes from Hicks onto Atlantic (whose purpose seems to be to shunt bypass traffic out of Brooklyn Heights).

    I’ve given up crossing here, I either cross Furman at Joralemon or take the risk of crossing Columbia at Atlantic and walking along the south side of Atlantic (Columbia at Atlantic has its own problems — both bypass traffic zipping in from Furman as well as left turn traffic from Atlantic).

  • fj

    very dangerous area. drivers seem to achieve great joy speeding up and aiming at people crossing.

    much thanks to brad lander and dan squadron

  • Jimenace

    This won’t help. The traffic is going to be at a standstill. They need a pedestrian bridge. What good is a park when it creates pollution that’s unbearable to the residents. What potatohead design the park?

  • Jimenace

    This won’t help. The traffic is going to be at a standstill. They need a pedestrian bridge. What good is a park when it creates pollution that’s unbearable to the residents. What potatohead design the park?

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  • Andrew

    @fd544138b22c30399cf7391c9665ea7d:disqus It’s actually the cars that create pollution, not the park.

    None of this would be necessary if the people driving those cars bothered to obey the law. Instead, many of them decided that they didn’t really need to yield to pedestrians.

  • a.v.

    This is good. A cheaper fix would be replacing the round red signal with a red arrow signal along with a simple “no turn on red” reminder. The existing sign is like 20 words explaining which days and times the rules are, or are not, in effect.

  • Anonymous

    I like a.v.’s idea.  People don’t bother to read street signs when they’re too wordy.

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