Tonight: Big Changes Proposed for Intersection Where Ella Bandes Was Killed

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT
Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Last year, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by a turning MTA bus driver at a complex intersection on the Queens-Brooklyn border. On the anniversary of her death in January, her parents called on DOT to implement more aggressive street safety measures. Tonight, DOT is scheduled to present a plan to Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee, including new crosswalks, curb extensions and turn bans [PDF].

DOT already installed brighter street lighting beneath the elevated train in January and added pedestrian countdown clocks. “I thought they were just going to improve the lighting and do as little as possible,” said Judy Kottick, Ella’s mother. “But they’re adding a crosswalk, they’re shortening crossing distances.”

The plan would add painted curb extensions at most of the intersection’s corners. It also calls for a new crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue in the middle of the intersection, to match a route many pedestrians already follow. An existing crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue on the intersection’s east side would be widened significantly, and all crosswalks will receive new high-visibility zebra markings under the plan.

The multi-leg intersection, at the transfer point between an elevated train and a subway, is also a hub for bus routes in both boroughs. A 2007 DOT Ridgewood transportation study [PDF] found that the corner where Ella was killed had the neighborhood’s highest pedestrian volumes.

DOT is also proposing five turn bans during rush hours. The agency is focusing on banning movements that do not have high volumes of turning traffic, and has examined alternative routes for drivers.

These five turns would be banned during rush hours at the complex intersection of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues. Image: DOT
These five turns would be banned during rush hours at the complex intersection of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues. Image: DOT

The bans would apply to all vehicles, but do not affect MTA bus routes in the area. They would only be in effect from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Kottick noted that the bans would not have prevented the crash that killed her daughter, which involved an MTA bus driver at approximately 11 p.m.

In order for the turn bans to be successful, Brooklyn CB 4 manager Nadine Whitted said NYPD will have to be involved. “We’re going to have to have some enforcement out there,” she said. “It’s a dangerous intersection.”

In its presentation, DOT says it is considering the addition of leading pedestrian intervals to the intersection and is working with the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District on maintaining the painted curb extensions. DOT is also developing pedestrian safety handouts for distribution at the intersection.

DOT hosted a meeting with representatives of elected officials and community boards to unveil the plan yesterday, Whitted said. The transportation committee of CB 4 is scheduled to meet on May 1, where Whitted said she expects DOT will present the plan again, before it proceeds to the full board on May 21.

Whitted called the plan “a long time coming” and said she thinks people will be glad to see DOT is proposing fixes. “There are a lot of changes that are necessary,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of negative reaction.”

Kottick learned about the details of the plan from Streetsblog today and was upset that DOT didn’t notify her family about the presentations. “They promised that they would let us know when they would have a meeting. They never told us,” she said. Kottick’s husband, Ken Bandes, will try to make tonight’s CB 5 committee meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the board’s offices, 61-23 Myrtle Avenue.

In addition to Ella Bandes, another pedestrian was killed at the intersection in 2009. From 2008 to 2012, there were 29 traffic injuries, including four severe injuries, according to DOT. Fifteen of the victims, including three of the people who suffered severe injuries, were pedestrians.

“Why did my daughter have to die to get them to do this?” Kottick said. “It was obviously a problem for a long time.”

  • Andres Dee

    Intersections like this one allow drivers to make right turns at relatively high speed, often with poor visibiliy (or without regard) for people crossing at the far side. IMHO, the only way to change this is to make it impossible to speed and bully, or, through consistent enforcement, impress on drivers that their actions come with a price tag. I don’t see how paint or signsge will achieve this, certainly not long term.

  • Daniel

    I don’t think this plan will work. The intersection has too many roads intersecting. The DOT needs to dead end one of those roads before the intersection. I cross Myrtle Ave everyday and where I cross it it has little traffic. Was this considered?

  • Diagonalec

    This is a very common situation in Europe.
    So…
    How about a ROUNDABOUT? With visible pedestrian crossings of course.

    (with small enough turning radius it would also slow vehicles, which is good for pedestrians)

  • Diagonalec

    Dead ending a street for vehicles sounds nice. With a free pass for cyclists in all directions, naturally.

  • Judging how poorly most American motorists handle the few roundabouts we have, I would imagine more of them would only make things worse before they get better.

  • Daniel

    A cyclist can bypass this intersection as easily as a car can. Closing one street off to both cyclist and driver through traffic would allow shorter waits for the two remaining streets. Vehicles traveling along the dead ended street would need to go over a block or two, but this doesn’t add appreciably to any trip long enough to call for a bike or car. Net travel through the intersection would improve for all modes. Complex intersections on streets with sufficient traffic to call for a traffic light are idiotic. They both snarl vehicle traffic and kill and maim pedestrians.

    (Edit: removed first sentence which was overly snarky)

  • Joe R.

    I was about to say the same thing. NYC has quite a few intersections like this where three roads intersect. Instead of stupidly long, very complex signal patterns a roundabout is the way to go. I don’t buy the common thought that drivers can’t handle roundabouts. If they can’t, it’s because there aren’t enough of them to keep drivers in practice. The more roundabouts we install, the better drivers will eventually become at dealing with them.

  • Diagonalec

    Test it first: (like in Maribor, Slovenia, Google streetview)

    https://www.google.si/maps/@46.548064,15.644879,3a,75y,82.45h,72.75t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sw2egyotiz0I6X-rw31E04A!2e0

    Folks claim it improved safety.

  • Diagonalec

    Since you know the neighbourhood (and in the spirit of exploration):
    – How about dead-ending Palmetto street under metro?
    – Is there any harm in rerouting buses?

    The Palmetto under elevated train could easily function as a semi public space:
    – a 20mph zone with limited access (delivery+folks who live there)…
    – with road diet narowing it into two lanes; the rest is for pedestrians, cyclist, parklets…

    (Edit: added the road diet concept and fixed grammar)

  • Bolwerk

    Who wants a public space under an el? Palmetto under the el is already car-free. It’s used as a bus transfer area. Also, I think literally no one lives on that stretch of the block; it’s a mix of commercial uses and a parking lot.

    A ped plaza might make sense on Myrtle between Palmetto and Madison (pic). The Palmetto segment south of the el can be a right turn only onto Wyckoff. Myrtle traffic can take a left on Madison.

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