Pedestrian Injuries Down Nearly 30% After 4th Ave Road Diet in Sunset Park

Photo: NYC DOT
With paint, epoxy, and gravel, DOT widened skinny medians to make safer crossings on Fourth Avenue. Pedestrian injuries have dropped 29 percent following the redesign. Photo: NYC DOT

A year and a half after implementing a road diet on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, DOT returned to the Brooklyn Community Board 7 transportation committee last night with a report on how the redesign has affected safety. The results are positive: More people are walking on Fourth Avenue, while speeding, crashes, and pedestrian injuries are all down significantly [PDF].

Speeding is down on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. So are crashes, injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT
Speeding is down on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. So are crashes, injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT

DOT implemented the road diet between August and December of 2012, converting Fourth Avenue from three lanes in each direction to two, adding turn restrictions, widening pedestrian medians, and expanding the width of the parking lanes. For its study, DOT looked at crash, speed, and traffic data for the 12 months before and after the road diet was implemented.

Over that period, total crashes have dropped 13 percent, crashes with injuries have decreased 8 percent, and pedestrian injuries have decreased 29 percent. Before the road diet, 47 percent of drivers were speeding. After the road diet, the proportion of drivers speeding shrank to 29 percent.

In the six years before the road diet, there were seven fatalities along this section of Fourth Avenue. There was one death while the road diet was being implemented in late 2012, and none in the 17 months since.

Pedestrian activity has ticked up slightly at intersections along Fourth Avenue, and motorist travel times have remained mostly steady. Northbound trips during the morning rush hour now average 15 seconds shorter than before, while southbound evening rush hour trips take an average of 88 seconds longer over the 2.5-mile route.

DOT is already planning to build out the design using concrete, with a capital project from 33rd Streets to 47th Street partially funded. DOT is looking for additional funds, and CB 7 transportation committee chair Ryan Lynch suggested the board ask Council Member Carlos Menchaca to use discretionary funds to support the project. Eventually, DOT hopes to reconstruct all of Fourth Avenue between 65th Street in Bay Ridge and Atlantic Avenue in Park Slope.

DOT noted in its presentation that the final design for Fourth Avenue has yet to be determined, but it’s likely that it will mirror the paint-and-planters design that’s resulted in the significant safety gains described last night.

So far, bike safety has largely been overlooked on Fourth Avenue. Although the extra-wide parking lane provides informal space for cycling, it’s frequently blocked by double-parking and still feels dangerous. Divided two-way streets like Fourth Avenue provide an opportunity for center-running protected bike lanes, like the one on Allen Street in Manhattan, that could offer much bigger safety gains.

But instead of Fourth Avenue, discussion of bike facilities in Sunset Park has concentrated on the much-narrower Fifth Avenue, which has received shared-lane markings, and the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, which is far from the residential heart of the neighborhood and remains years from completion.

“All options should be on the table. We should look at different ways to enhance the corridor for all users of the roadway,” Lynch told Streetsblog. “We’re very pleased that DOT is looking to invest capital resources in a dangerous corridor.”

Lynch added that DOT should make fixes to other dangerous streets in the area, as well. The board is asking DOT to focus especially on Seventh and Eighth Avenues. CB 7 Vision Zero workshops earlier this year were well-attended, Lynch said. “Fourth Avenue is obviously a very big issue in our community, but it’s not the sole issue when it comes to street safety,” Lynch said. “The common refrain was, ‘We need to do more.'”

  • J

    Great results, and with such a small amount of money

    HOWEVER, I am concerned that DOT is considering spending many millions of dollars to build out planted medians, and set in stone this geometry for decades. NYC has a complete streets policy, yet despite the generous street width, this project has almost nothing for bicycling (Wide parking lanes are NOT bike facilities). 4th Ave is a prime location for protected bike lanes, be they in the center or along the curb (my preference). With Citibike, NYC now needs to have a bigger discussion about the place of bicycles on the street, and how to more safely accommodate them. At this point, that discussion is still not happening, and it’s a shame to spend so much money and effectively prohibit the accommodation of cyclists on 4th Ave for many decades.

  • R

    Bike lanes have become the black sheep of Vision Zero. It’s as if DOT is still in a 2010 mindset where people are suing bike lanes and the media is freaking out about them. The department needs to get over it. Everyone else has.

  • cjstephens

    While this is good news, I find it discouraging that we’re happy that “only” 29% of drivers are speeding. The trend is in the right direction, but we have a long, long way to go.

  • J

    Speed cameras will known that down dramatically. We have to erase the notion that speeding is somehow acceptable in our society.

  • J

    I think they’ve gotten over it in Manhattan, with lots of new protected bike infrastructure in the works, but everywhere else, DOT seems incredibly cautious. If you don’t push for change, it’s guaranteed not to happen.

  • JK

    Small but cool thing — notice that the DOT graph is % Drivers above speed limit and not the 85th percentile speed? It is much easier to understand this simple stat than 85th percentile, which is often obscures how much speeding is going on. Also, agree it’s disappointing to see the wide curb lane becoming the default. (See Morningside Ave Manh.) What happened to protected bike lanes? A 14 foot curb lane could be an 8 foot parking lane, three foot painted buffer and a five foot curbside bike lane.

  • yeampierre

    This process was facilitated by UPROSE and the community priority was pedestrian safety. Community elders expressed concern about being victims of aggressive drivers and cyclists- and many along the corridor are pleased that the median has addressed a major concern.

  • Wi Cho

    That stat is wrong. Theres plenty of speeders go above 30 all the time.

  • Wi Cho

    lol, no one will do that. Not even Speedy de Blasio.

  • Wi Cho

    You really can not put the bike lanes at the center median. The subways need ventilation.

  • Aunt Bike

    I’ve been in many communities where speeding and failure to yield are not accepted. There’s no reason why we can’t change our attitudes.

    The de Blasio administration and the police department have started the change, now we keep it up until the road users come around. If they can do it in London, we can do it in NYC.

  • Hilda

    Good ventilation can be designed.

  • tee

    Considering that this last winter was the worst winter in decades, to now “carve” in stone the results is inappropriate. What is this rush to judgement? The number of bikers on 4th is incredible considering the danger involved. Adding a protected bike lane is doable and needed. As for UPROSE’s role in all this, I would prefer a more community-based organization rather than a secretive, heavily funded, friend of government group be speaking for us.