Eyes on the Street: Ocean Parkway Gets Safety Upgrades, With More to Come

Even with the crosswalk closed for construction of a pedestrian island, a lot of people still want to cross Ocean Parkway along the north side of Church Avenue. Photo: Ryan Lynch

A plan to improve pedestrian safety at a dangerous Brooklyn intersection is seeing the first signs of progress on the ground.

In June, Ngozi Agbim, 73, was killed by a turning tractor-trailer truck driver on the north side of the intersection of Church Avenue, Ocean Parkway, and the Prospect Expressway. The location, which had already been targeted for pedestrian safety improvements through Council Member Brad Lander’s participatory budgeting process, falls on the border between state and city DOT jurisdiction.

After Agbim’s death, Lander said state DOT had not only delayed safety fixes at the intersection, but pushed for removal of the crosswalk altogether. In August, the state agreed to move forward with improving the crosswalk and adding a pedestrian island, developing a plan with NYC DOT.

Now, the first of those changes is being installed: A new concrete pedestrian island, providing a space for people midway across the Prospect Expressway on-ramps, is under construction and scheduled for completion in mid-November, according to NYC DOT. Protective barriers, crosswalk striping, bike markings, narrower traffic lanes, and additional signage are on the way. NYC DOT is currently coming up with a schedule for installing new traffic signals that will include flashing yellow arrows for turning drivers, and the state DOT says work should be completed by the spring.

The new pedestrian island under construction at the Prospect Expressway and Church Avenue. Photo: Ryan Lynch

The state also said it had made progress on its study of 39 intersections on Ocean Parkway between Prospect Park and Shore Parkway, using crash data and consultation with NYC DOT to select 10 intersections for improvements. They are, from north to south:

  • Church Avenue
  • Avenue C
  • Cortelyou Road
  • Ditmas Avenue
  • 18th Avenue
  • Avenue I/Bay Parkway
  • Avenue J
  • Avenue P
  • Kings Highway
  • Avenue U

The safety enhancements the state is considering include new pedestrian signals, signal timing adjustments, upgrading curb ramps to ADA standards, and restricting traffic or turning movements — but the state did not say it was considering physical traffic calming measures like pedestrian islands. State DOT says the study should be completed next spring, with $5 million in state funds allocated for pedestrian safety improvements on Ocean Parkway and construction set to begin in 2015.

  • What’s happening about the bike lane along the western mall of Ocean Parkway? It’s potentially a great bike route towards Coney Island (and, I think I’m right in saying, a bike lane dating back to the 19th century). But the surface is appalling at points and the design does nothing to protect against crashes with turning vehicles. A better way onto the bikeway at the intersection in question would be a good idea, too.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    True, this greenway needs a resurfacing project throughout. DOT is only doing it in parts, and as for turning vehicles this is by far the biggest hazard on this and Eastern Parkway. I believe that could be resolved with a separate signal phase for WB turning vehicles and have EB Service Road turning vehicles wait for the signal from a turning bay in the service road, rather than the crosswalk itself.

  • JP

    This is nothing more than window dressing for an incredibly unsafe intersection. The only real solution would be turn signals that regulate when cars can get onto the expressway, and give pedestrians a chance to get across the many lanes without having to dodge the turning cars. The “flashing yellow ” considered by the DOT will simply be ignored by drivers.

  • Anonymous

    As a newbie cyclist last year and unfamiliar with that road, I had a rather close run in with a turning car, since I didn’t know to watch for cars barreling around the corner even though I had the light. Even knowing the risk, it’s hard to see what cars are doing, since you’re not at the corner, and having to be hyper-vigilant at every intersection regardless of the lights gets tired. Also, cars stopped by the light part way through the intersection often block the entrance or exit as you cross the street. I don’t know if there’s a way to fix this, but after trying it a couple of times, I decided I’d rather take Bedford.

  • moocow

    Or take the service road just to the right in either direction. You may get honked at, but you should take the single lane when that’s all there is. It’s much safer, fewer pedestrians, and on Friday nights, north bound, there is almost no traffic due to the sabbath. (= a bunch of really negligent drivers are not driving then.)

  • Right, if you must take Ocean Parkway, take the service road. The bike path is not only dangerous for the reasons stated, but it is damn annoying to constantly go up and down those curb cuts.

  • MJ from Kensington

    Absolutely right, JP…NOTHING will make this intersection safe unless a dedicated vehicles-ONLY left & right turn interval is added (about 15 seconds should do it) and a new signal system and lane structure is installed. After this turning interval, allow pedestrians and vehicles straight-ahead movement E/W and then N/S, with red arrows stopping any further turns (not lame yellow ones).

    Hard to believe that NYC and NY State DOTs are more concerned with traffic flow than pedestrian safety in this high-profile case.

  • Peter

    I agree with MJ from Kensington that right turn signals should be added, since left turn intervals have already been set up. It only makes sense to have them added at the same time as the left turn interval, because the cross walks are blocked from pedestrian use by the cars turning left.

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