After months of work between local residents and DOT, a plan for a road diet on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, advanced by Brooklyn Community Board 10’s transportation committee in May, was taken up by the full board in June. After many members said they had trouble understanding the proposal, the board voted to delay making a decision. But an informational meeting about the plan last Wednesday didn’t include a presentation from DOT, and a report from the board’s chair might have sowed even more confusion as a scheduled vote approaches in October.
In advance of the meeting, board members received a 10-page report on Fourth Avenue [PDF] from recently-elected board chair Brian Kieran, who had previously served as chair of the transportation committee. In the report, Kieran makes unfounded claims that the safety plan will lead to traffic congestion, and says that lane reductions, which were backed by his own committee, should be sidelined in favor of speed tables, which aren’t supported by the DOT manual he cites.
“Studies have shown that ‘road diets’ can reduce speeding vehicles without affecting the efficiency of the thoroughfare,” Kieran wrote, before contradicting this statement and making up his own numbers about road capacity. “Any reduction to traffic capacity of the thoroughfare will impinge upon vehicular traffic,” his letter continued. “In Bay Ridge a reduction of one lane out of two through lanes of traffic is a 50 percent reduction of our traffic capacity on the avenue.”
DOT refuted Kieran’s claims, which “were addressed during our extensive outreach with Community Board 10,” agency spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. “Traffic analysis has shown that remaining travel lanes would provide sufficient capacity.”
Transportation committee member Bob HuDock, who called Wednesday’s gathering “more of a misinformational meeting,” was exasperated by Kieran’s assertions. “These claims have no evidence. It’s all based on people’s intuition,” he said. “I think we should be making policy based on data, not based on people’s feelings of what might happen.”
Kieran said that board members, most of whom are not transportation committee members and have not been heavily invested in the planning process to date, should scrap even more of the proposal. “The committee felt comfortable picking and choosing,” he wrote. “The board should feel free to do the same.”
But Kieran did more than encourage the full board to restart the debate over DOT proposals that were supported by the committee; he suggested his own interventions, despite overseeing the process for months. “I believe that Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge needs and deserves one or two speed tables,” Kieran wrote. “Anti-speeding measures for Fourth Avenue can include raised speed reducers: speed bumps, speed tables and speed cushions.”
Kieran cited DOT’s Street Design Manual [PDF] as justification for installing raised speed reducers, but the agency told Streetsblog that these interventions “would not be appropriate on arterials such as Fourth Avenue.” In fact, the DOT manual Kieran cites doesn’t support their installation in this context, either. It says raised speed reducers should be avoided on streets that are wider than 44 feet, have more than one lane in each direction, or are on routes for buses, emergency vehicles, or snow emergencies. Much of Fourth Avenue has several of these characteristics.
Kieran didn’t stop by rejecting the carefully constructed road diet in favor of inappropriate design measures — he created a new straw man to make himself appear to be the reasonable party. “No reasonable person would recommend the elimination of vehicle traffic on Fourth Avenue although this would virtually guarantee no pedestrian fatalities,” he wrote. “Extreme positions and extreme suggestions do not enhance our efforts to produce a good plan for improvement of Fourth Avenue.”
Streetsblog reached out to Kieran, Council Member Vincent Gentile, and State Senator Marty Golden for comment, but none have replied. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back. The process will continue to at least October 21, when a vote on Fourth Avenue is scheduled for the full board.