Speed Survey Confirms Deadly McGuinness Boulevard Is Out of Control

A study released today finds that two out of three motorists speed on Brooklyn’s McGuinness Boulevard [PDF], a notorious Greenpoint thoroughfare where locals have for years called on the city to take action to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths.

Since 2005, no fewer than five pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by drivers on McGuinness Boulevard. Image: ##http://crashstat.org/##CrashStat##

The McGuinness Boulevard Working Group — comprised of Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1 and area residents — conducted four surveys between Norman and Nassau Avenues in February and early March. Clocking cars and trucks with a radar gun, the group found 66.25 percent of all drivers exceeding the 30-mph speed limit, with 36 percent speeding by 5 mph or more.

Surveyors found that 62 percent of all truck drivers exceeded the speed limit, with a top truck speed of 47 mph. “At that speed, a big rig would require 346 feet to reach a full stop, well over the full length of a football field,” the report reads. “Equally as alarming, the MBWG found that 34 percent of all trucks were traveling 5 mph or more above the speed limit.”

According to state DOT data cited in the report, from 2005 to 2009 there were 57 crashes on McGuinness involving pedestrians or bicyclists, or an average of nearly one crash per month. Of those, 44 crashes involved pedestrians, with one resulting in death. The remaining 13 crashes, involving cyclists, resulted in three fatalities.

Two years ago, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The driver was not charged.

Despite outrage over those deaths, and a 2010 study that chronicled rampant law-breaking, McGuinness is still a poorly designed street dominated by speeding drivers.

“This study is a call to action that must be taken seriously by Ray Kelly’s NYPD,” said TA’s Paul Steely White. “The NYPD must step up enforcement of speeding in general, and in particular on McGuinness Boulevard. Until they do, everyone will be risking their lives any time they’re near this dangerous road.”

“Speeding along McGuinness Boulevard has been a problem for as long as I can remember and it’s getting worse,” said City Council Member Steve Levin. “We have to get speeding under control for the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers.”

McGuinness Boulevard runs through the 94th Precinct. To voice your concerns about traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson, the commanding officer, head to the next precinct community council meeting. The 94th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at the Church of the Ascension at 122 Java Street. Call the precinct at 718-383-5298 for information.

  • McGuinness is not even a street. It’s like an unsigned state highway in the suburbs, where all of the driving behavior assumes that nobody who is a vulnerable road user has any business being around anyway. 
    Forget the number of tallied fatalities, I’d like to see the ratio of fatalities-to-attempts or injuries-to-attempts for pedestrians and cyclists around McGuinness to compare with, say, Manhattan Ave or Bedford Ave in Williamsburg. Bet that would get people’s attention.

    Fixing this road is a political landmine, though. It’s perverse, but area residents just don’t want to be spared a gruesome death enough to fight for a change, even if it’s already in the works and all they have to do is counteract the entitled (and unearned) whining of road ragers and commercial vehicle drivers. “No thanks, don’t fix anything, I’d like to lose my life painfully!”

  • Matt

    Always nice to have the data to back up the obvious.

  • Ian Turner

    Speed cameras.

  • Miles Bader

    @7c177865bd107a919938355fe93de93a:disqus  … sure, speed cameras are a good idea.

    OTOH, a bit more stylishly:

  • Ben from Bed Stuy

    Brian,
    You write that fixing this road is a political landmine. How so? I understand that tons of new folks, including lots of younger people and families who are into biking, have been moving to Greenpoint in the last few years. Have community groups or activists lobbied for some improvements in the past without success?

  • Reggie

    McGuinness Boulevard is like Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn.  To some motorists, it is nothing more than the on-ramp to a bridge.  That those streets travel through neighborhoods with pedestrians and cyclists doesn’t even enter the drivers’ thinking.

  • Josh

    McGuiness was originally meant to be a highway to connect to Long Island City from the BQE. It’s design reflects efficiency in terms of car connectivity. So, it actually serves it’s original purpose. Trucks are allowed on this road and they have to be able to get in and out of the area from the waterfront industry. 
    The solutions include removing all industry from the waterfront to eliminate trucks, speed cameras or a total redesign of the street to narrow it, eliminating parking cars, expanding the sidewalks and create a complete divider between the two lane traffic and the sidewalk. I don’t think that bikes should be here until their is more protection. Those who own property along this block however are against eliminating parking. The road does remain dangerous and needs to see some action. 

  • More the opposite – citywide, in all but the most progressive neighborhoods, the most vocal citizens have contested any changes that might seem to impact traffic capacity, even ones that would have a negligible effect on traffic. Livable streets simply are not a concern to those most vocal citizens – they believe non-vehicular traffic to be a burden, an anachronism, a punishment. This is not how everyone feels – far from it – but when you count decibels, it’s the prevailing mindset.

    People are lobbying for improvements but they’re being drowned out by the hysterical vehicle proponents. For example, an APPROVED and REQUESTED design for protected bicycle lanes in East Harlem was sent back to committee review after two food business owners raised a big stink about it, claiming that cycling = more car traffic = asthma. The same exact design achieved overwhelming approval a second time afterward, but months passed in the interim and the local tabloids reprinted the asthma claims (and the couple parking spaces that hung in the balance) as realistic issues, further cementing city-wide opposition to bicycle infrastructure among impatient car drivers. The play here is that, against such aggressive (even if small-numbered) opposition, the city will simply give up at some point – if not soon, then definitely with the administration who is seated after Bloomberg. 

    It’s also a shame that all of these young residents and families don’t turn up consistently at civic forums – even though they should feel a duty to do so, no matter how often they switch neighborhoods and rental apartments – and thus are nearly wholly disenfranchised by the city via the political mandates from the characters and the lunatics who DO show up. People have accepted torn-up sidewalks and dangerous street crossings in densely-populated urban neighborhoods as inherent to city living… and, just as absurdly, many feel entitled to readily-available free parking and unrestricted traffic flow, for an unlimited number of people, in these same neighborhoods. I can’t say that I agree. I can’t see why anyone rational would think that way at all. That’s why we need a StreetsBlog.

  • Joe R.

    @brianvan:disqus I personally think sometimes livable streets advocates shoot themselves in the foot. Like it or not, for the time being motor vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, fulfill essentially functions. Time equals money to these people. Basically, this means on some streets we might just need to throw in the towel and concede them to motor vehicles, for the time being, anyway. It makes MUCH more sense to focus on making streets near where many people live or shop safer. You’ll have broader support try to calm a residential street than an arterial. By making these side streets slower and less convenient, you’ll divert commercial traffic to arterials. It’s a carrot and stick approach. The carrot could be higher than 30 mph speed limits and better light timing (and/or fewer traffic lights) on the arterials. In places where large numbers of pedestrians might need to cross these streets, you could just put in pedestrian bridges. I know that’s a dirty word around here, but it’s the only truly safe, albeit less convenient, way to get people across some of these drag strips.

    Bottom line, at this point for both political and practical reasons we can’t make every street in the city “livable”. That can only happen once the city is a lot less dependent on motor vehicles. First order of business then should be to calm those streets where you’ll have broad support for doing so. The same commercial driver who might want to fly down McGuinness will want the street where his kids play to be safe. Down the road, try to change the way we do things. Just giving strong disincentives for people from Long Island or NJ to use their cars to commute into the city will reduce traffic volumes substantially. Politically, this is something which will appeal to NYC residents. And these car commuters serve no valid economic function like commercial vehicles. They could just as easily take the RR in, or work somewhere else. After that, see if we can leverage the subways for some types of deliveries. And by all means build the freight tunnel so we get more freight by train, not truck. When commercial vehicles play a much smaller economic role, then the support for making ALL streets livable will be there.

  • Greenpointer

    Josh wrote: “The solutions include removing all industry from the waterfront to eliminate trucks, speed cameras or a total redesign of the street to narrow it, eliminating parking cars, expanding the sidewalks and create a complete divider between the two lane traffic and the sidewalk.”
    Remove all waterfront industry and eliminate trucks???  What wonderful little green fascists you would make.  What about the jobs and tax revenue from said businesses?  Why should one of the few industrial areas left be destroyed so people can ride their bikes on the highway?  This is some really twisted thinking.  

    McGuinness is for trucks and traffic to move quickly.  Make improvements with regard to street lights and by all means enforce the speed limits, but calls to eliminate all economic activity in the name of bicycles is insane and reeks of class privilege.

  • Anonymous

    I live three blocks from McGuinness and it’s nice to see it finally get some attention. Twice in the past 6 months I have seen a wiped-out traffic signal in the median at McGuinness and Norman–I shudder when pedestrians wait there. If a driver loses control there is literally no where to go. Better to cross with the light (after making sure that drivers are actually stopping.)

    Oh, and there’s a grade school right there.

  • Anonymous

    Joe R: “It makes MUCH more sense to focus on making streets near where many
    people live or shop safer. You’ll have broader support try to calm a
    residential street than an arterial. By making these side streets slower
    and less convenient, you’ll divert commercial traffic to arterials.
    It’s a carrot and stick approach. The carrot could be higher than 30 mph
    speed limits and better light timing (and/or fewer traffic lights) on
    the arterials. In places where large numbers of pedestrians might need
    to cross these streets, you could just put in pedestrian bridges. I know
    that’s a dirty word around here, but it’s the only truly safe, albeit
    less convenient, way to get people across some of these drag strips.”

    But McGuinness IS a “street[s] near where many people live or shop.” It literally divides Greenpoint in half. I hate crossing it. It is not an arterial that should exist.

  • Joe R.

    @Automocar:disqus Just curious what you might suggest be done. I checked in Google Earth and  McGuinness already has the usual things some people here advocate to make things safer for pedestrians, such as crosswalks and traffic signals. The fact that large numbers of people are still getting killed just proves my point that these measures are worthless. Other than narrowing the road (won’t be done because it would reduce traffic capacity) and/or using roundabouts to slow traffic at intersections (definitely won’t be done because NYC seems averse to them), not much can be done here. Enforcement will only nab the worst speeders because speeding tickets less than 10% plus 4 mph over the limit won’t hold up in court. Red light cameras won’t prevent every single instance of red light running, particularly those due to human error.
    Large numbers of heavy vehicles plus large numbers of pedestrians equals a disaster waiting to happen, no matter how you slice it. You either need to get rid of one or the other, or just grade separate via pedestrian bridges/underpasses every 2 or 3 blocks. Sure, it makes crossing a PITA, but that’s better than getting killed. I actually wish DOT would build some pedestrian bridges/underpasses across 164th Street here in Flushing. I worry every time my mother crosses that raceway. From a pedestrian standpoint, I think underpasses are easier-you’re just going down about 7 feet versus up about 15 feet. They’re not ugly either like overpasses are.

  • All our streets are dangerous because everywhere there are speeding or drunk drivers that can put our lives in danger….that’s right, innocent people die every single day because of a bunch of stupid drivers that don’t think their actions could have serious consequences…

  • gp

    I doubt many know the speed limit, so lets start with signs…In looking for speed limit signs, found only 2: northbound one hidden near Meeker, falling down and covered; the other near Nassau, also hidden by trees. How about 1) putting them at every light. 2) Putting an over the road one, so it’s clear and unmistakable, perhaps with a speed read out showing actual speed as approaching. I’ve seen these (going into Great Neck, etc), I think very effective if not for letting folks know the limit, and forces to consider reality of their speeding, if only for an instant.  

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