DOT Plans Road Diet and Bikeway Upgrade on Deadly Section of Kent Avenue

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and turning the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT
On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and converting the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee unanimously recommended the board support a DOT project [PDF] to calm traffic on a deadly stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The project also upgrades a link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to a two-way protected bike lane.

Last March, hit-and-run driver Julio Acevedo, who police say was traveling 69 mph, killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber, both 21, in a two-car crash on this section of Kent Avenue at Wilson Street. Acevedo, facing charges including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Since the crash, DOT has installed traffic signals at Wilson and Hooper Streets. The agency says crosswalks will be added at these locations next year, once crews begin striping again in March. (Currently, there are no marked crosswalks between Clymer Street and the BQE, a distance of four-tenths of a mile.)

This section of Kent Avenue is currently a median-divided road with parking on the east and west sides of the street. There is one southbound car lane and two northbound car lanes. A DOT study in May found that 82 percent of northbound drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, similar to measurements taken last March by Transportation Alternatives and Council Member Steve Levin, which found 89 percent of drivers breaking the limit.

“When roads are overbuilt, this is the way people drive,” said DOT’s Ted Wright, adding that car volumes on Kent could be accommodated in one lane in either direction without any impact on traffic. “This is about limiting the speeds of vehicles on the northbound side,” he said.

The plan, set to be implemented next summer, would eliminate the left lane of northbound traffic, converting it to a buffered parking lane alongside the median. (A similar configuration exists on northbound Carlton Avenue between Myrtle and Park Avenues in Fort Greene.) On the southbound side, curbside parking would be converted to a two-way bike lane, separated from motor traffic by plastic bollards. Currently, this section of Kent Avenue has a striped southbound bike lane, while northbound cyclists are directed to the sidewalk, a maneuver Wright said many people find confusing. (This sidewalk is also occasionally used as parking by local residents.)

“What we’re doing is creating a continuous path,” Wright said, referring to the planned reconstruction of Flushing Avenue to the south and the existing two-way bike path on Kent Avenue north of Clymer Street, both part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Cyclist and pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick. Map: Transportation Alternatives
Cyclist and pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick. Map: Transportation Alternatives

The committee supported the plan and requested DOT present it to the full board in January, but also continued to push DOT for improvements to the heavily-used northern section of Kent Avenue. This area has high volumes of cyclists on the bikeway and pedestrians crossing to and from the waterfront. DOT said last night that traffic at the intersections of North 8th, 9th and 10th Streets did not currently meet the requirements for a signal, but the agency would perform counts again in the future. In the meantime, committee chair Karen Nieves suggested concrete islands to give pedestrians a safer, more defined place to wait while crossing the street, a suggestion DOT staffers were open to last night.

Later in the meeting, the committee heard from Transportation Alternatives volunteers working on traffic safety forums in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick slated for next spring. The volunteers, who last week had spoken to the full board and presented a map of the area’s pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities [PDF], are hoping to secure CB 1 as a co-sponsor for up to three events featuring DOT and NYPD, where residents will be invited to map out danger hotspots and brainstorm solutions.

So far, the volunteers have secured support from 62 partners [PDF], including Assembly Member Joe Lentol, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Council Member Steve Levin, Council Member-elect Antonio Reynoso, business groups and local businesses. A petition in support of the community safety forums has garnered nearly 1,300 signatures.

The group is looking to host planning meetings in January, followed by public forums in March or April and a final list of recommendations in May.

  • Clarke

    Unless that buffer is going to be concrete jersey barriers or tightly-spaced concrete bollards, good luck. Cheap plastic bollards will be run-over with ease

  • M to the I

    I agree that while the cross-section looks good, there are problems in the details. The DOT probably proposed plastic bollards to allow the illegal sidewalk parking that happens along this stretch.

    Also, I don’t understand why the bicycle lanes have been narrowed from 5′ to 4′. This is a busy bikeway that is part of the Brooklyn Queens Greenway. Shouldn’t they reduce some of these buffered areas slightly so that the bicycle lanes don’t have to shrink? I mean, a jersey barrier is 2′ wide and provides a perfectly good buffer around the corner on Williamsburg St.

  • Rider

    Given Kent Avenue’s popularity as both a recreational and commuter link, growing ridership, and continued development in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the lane should be wide enough to allow for two cyclists to ride side-by-side. Four feet in one direction isn’t going to cut it. It’s a good design for 2010, but it barely allows for the kind of two-way volumes you see on Kent at peak hours in 2013. I will be functionally obsolete in a few years. If DOT wasn’t so worried about preserving parking they could probably make what is now the proposed northbound travel and parking lanes into travel lanes going in both directions.

    Pie in the sky, I know, but the southbound lane of Kent should essentially be turned into a big two-way bike boulevard.

  • MrMook

    So glad this section is being addressed.
    Aside from costs (paint is cheaper than pavement, of course), why not remove the median altogether? If the road is slimming down to one north- and one southbound lane with slower speeds, the median isn’t needed. Without a median, there would be a lot more room for bike lanes and buffers, while giving each side of the road parking, instead of the awkward northbound-only parking.

  • J

    There are light poles in the median, so removing it would basically require reconstructing the entire street, which I believe was reconstructed in the 1990s along with the median. Very very expensive.

  • J

    While it’s technically 8′ wide, it’ll function as much wider with the 5′ buffer. I think some sort of weird regulation requires DOT to maintain such a wide buffer. Doesn’t really matter though, with around 10′ of clear space, it should be fine, at least in the near term. As bike volumes increase, you can shove the jersey barrier closer to car traffic to give even more space.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    About two months ago, I was biking up Kent from Flushing. I waited a little too long to mount the curb where you’re supposed to ride on the sidewalk, and the angle of the curb, combined with the curved metal brace, pulled my wheels out from under me as I tried to turn up. I got tossed on my face right onto the sidewalk. Very glad they’re fixing this.

  • MrMook

    Good point. I hadn’t noticed the light posts.

  • All the current arrangements along that section of Kent Avenue are pretty unsatisfactory. The sidewalk northbound cycle lane is overgrown with bushes and locals don’t really regard it as a bike lane. People walk in it a fair amount. Southbound, the bike lane goes round a lot of parked trucks, which isn’t always comfortable with the speed of cars down that section, as they tend to pass very close. I agree, however, with the posters who express concern about the plastic dividers. There’s a lot of commercial parking along there and there are some busy community facilities along there too. Both create surges in demand for parking and I find it hard to believe people aren’t going to park in the bike lanes if they’re not well segregated.

  • J

    If DOT really wanted to control speeds on NB Kent, they’d swap the location of the buffer and the parking on the northbound side of the street. 11′ travel lanes + 4′ buffer will, in practice, function more like 15′ travel lanes, encouraging speeding.

  • Mark R. Brown

    NACTO recommends a minimum of 3′ for buffers. Take the buffer down to 3′ and expand the bike lane to 10′.

  • krstrois

    I’m so glad they’re going to try to address this. I take it this means that people won’t be able to park on the West Sidewalk? This is wonderful news. I loathe parking on sidewalks.

  • anon

    It looks like the median in the middle of the road stay where it is. You can’t do much here without moving that, which would be a much bigger project.

  • anon
  • Guest

    I’m not sure I like the idea of a parking lane in the median. I get what they’re trying but I’ve never seen an implementation if that which didn’t cause a ton if visibility hazards for all users.

  • J

    Yeah, definitely need jersey barriers here, since NYPD enforcement is non-existent.

  • J

    It works just fine on Carlton & Cumberland Aves in Clinton Hill,
    http://goo.gl/maps/O4wJu
    http://goo.gl/maps/nfeoq

    Visibility issues happen at intersections, and these can and should be mitigated with sidewalk bulb-outs and parking removal near the intersections to improve visibility. The visibility problems here are the same as with any on-street parking, so if you’re not comfortable with this configuration, then you’re probably not comfortable with any on-street parking, which is a really hard position to maintain.

  • a

    If cars can ride in a single lane
    Why should cyclist need 2 lanes?

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