DOT Proposes Roundabout for Dangerous Longwood Intersection

The super-wide intersection of Intervale Avenue and Dawson Street is set to be transformed with a roundabout. Image: DOT [PDF]
The super-wide intersection of Intervale Avenue and Dawson Street is set to be transformed with a roundabout, shorter pedestrian crossings, and slower car speeds. Image: DOT [PDF]
New York seemingly has a traffic signal on every corner. To improve safety at one Bronx intersection, DOT is going with something different: a roundabout.

The proposal is part of a larger road diet for Intervale Avenue in Longwood [PDF]. The plan was supported by a Bronx Community Board 2 committee in a 7-1 vote earlier this month.

Currently, the intersection of Intervale and Dawson Street, at the northern end of Rainey Park, is wide-open, with only a painted triangle in the middle to break up the expanse. People walking on the western side of Intervale have to cross 200 feet of asphalt.

“For years, we’ve asked for DOT to install a sidewalk there,” said CB 2 district manager Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “A lot of cars, they do illegal activities there that put lives at risk.”

Roundabouts — not to be confused with rotaries, their larger, faster cousins — have a lot of benefits. They slow down traffic at intersections and compel drivers to negotiate the right of way with other road users, instead of rote reliance on a traffic signal. They also save drivers time, instead of holding them at red lights.

Today, Intervale Avenue at Dawson Street is an asphalt expanse up to 200 feet wide. Image: DOT
Today, Intervale Avenue at Dawson Street is an asphalt expanse where crossing distances are up to 200 feet. Photo: DOT [PDF]
Roundabouts should be designed with walking and biking in mind, too. On that count, the Intervale Avenue proposal is a huge step up from what’s there today.

The plan would convert Dawson Street from one-way to two-way and add “splitter islands” to both divide traffic as it approaches the roundabout and give refuge to pedestrians. On the north side of the roundabout, the splitter island is actually a wide median that extends for the entire block and through the crosswalk at East 163rd Street.

Two painted curb extensions would be added to crosswalks where north-south traffic from Intervale enters the roundabout. Drivers would pass the crosswalk before approaching “yield” markings at the roundabout itself. In an unusual design choice, the roundabout includes parking along its outer edges. The plan still calls for the removal of a few parking spaces.

Although about two of three of neighborhood households are car-free, parking is usually a top concern at the community board, Salamanca said. In this case, safety came first. “This intersection of Intervale and Dawson has been so stressful [to cross],” he said. “We as a community are okay with four parking spaces being taken to improve the safety of the community and the kids going to the park.”

The roundabout is the southern anchor of a larger road diet that stretches for almost a mile between Freeman Street and Rainey Park.

These eight blocks of Intervale rank in the top third of the Bronx’s most dangerous corridors, according to DOT. From 2009 to 2013, 126 people were injured by traffic on the street, including 16 pedestrians. DOT measured 65 percent of drivers on Intervale exceeding the speed limit.

Intervale and East 169th Street gets squared off to improve visibility, slow turns, and shorten crossing distances. Image: DOT [PDF]
Intervale and East 169th Street wiill get squared off to improve visibility, slow turns, and shorten crossing distances. Image: DOT [PDF]
Intervale is currently two lanes in each direction and would be reconfigured to one lane in each direction, plus a striped center median that includes pedestrian refuge islands and left turn lanes. Like most DOT road diets, the plan includes extra-wide 14 foot parking lanes that create space for both cyclists and double-parked drivers. It does not include bike lanes, and Salamanca said board members did not ask for them at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Pedestrian islands would be added to Intervale on the north side of Westchester Avenue, the north side of East 165th Street, and the south side of East 167th Street. A mid-block pedestrian island, along with neckdowns, would also be added between East 167th and East 165th Streets. As depicted in DOT’s presentation, the crossing, between a church and a school, does not include a marked crosswalk or traffic signals.

At its northern end, the project feeds into an existing road diet installed in 2012 on Intervale, Louis Nine Boulevard, and Freeman Street that cut traffic injuries by 29 percent. Where Intervale crosses East 167th Street and Hall Place, DOT installed a large pedestrian island with vegetation a few years ago, Salamanca said.

The plan now goes to the CB 2 full board, which meets tomorrow at Thessalonia Baptist Church, 941 Rev. James A. Polite Avenue. A Black History Month celebration and dinner will begin at at 6 p.m., followed by board business at approximately 7 p.m.

  • Is that….is that parking INSIDE the roundabout? That has to be a global first! Shows where the priorities lie.

  • vnm

    Bronx Community Board 2 sounds like the most reasonable community board in town. Is there any way they could be put in charge of the rest of the city?

  • KRS-1

    I like this plan but I expect a substantial number of NYC’s dimwit motoring population will have no idea how to handle a rotary.

  • Reader

    “Like most DOT road diets, the plan includes extra-wide 14 foot parking lanes that create space for both cyclists and double-parked drivers.”

    Once someone double parks, there ceases to be any room for cyclists. Both can’t exist at the same time.

  • Joe R.

    If we’re smart and put a lot of these in they’ll eventually figure it out. There are so many complex intersections with 5 or 6 streets which practically cry out for a roundabout instead of ridiculously long, ridiculously complex light cycles.

  • ScottRAB

    Parking inside a modern roundabout is a no-no. Also the entry from the SE looks like it has no deflection. That’s a recipe for disaster.

  • ScottRAB

    Many people confuse other
    and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. East coast US rotaries, large multi-lane
    traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic
    circles are not modern roundabouts. If you want to see the difference between a
    traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK
    continental roundabout), go to http://tinyurl.com/kstate-RAB to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the
    difference between an older rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg

  • red_greenlight1

    Aren’t roundabouts dangerous for cyclists?

  • J

    This.

    “Definition of Modern Roundabouts:
    The modern roundabout is defined as a circular intersection with yield-at-entry rule (vehicles in the circle always have priority) and with a deflection for entering traffic. Parking is not allowed in the roundabout and pedestrians are not permitted to travel to the central island. Roundabouts can have more than one lane entering and circulating around the central island.”

    http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_syn_264.pdf

  • Guest

    Yep. Crappy design. What has happened to the DOT? Who comes up with this crap?

  • I was all excited about this until I read in the PDF that they want to reverse Home St from Southern to Intervale. I go that way every day because it’s easier to take one-way Home than 2-way E 169th. Why can’t they have two-way for bikes, one way for cars?

  • J

    Yep. Crappy design. What has happened to the DOT? Who comes up with this crap?

    If you’re going to do a roundabout, do one correctly. Otherwise, you could easily just close the slip lane onto Dawson, and make a T-intersection, reclaiming a HUGE swath of street. Look how much useable space you could reclaim in the drawing, with far shorter crossing distances and more direct walking routes.

  • AnoNYC

    How about fixing East 163rd Street at Westchester Avenue? A bow tie intersection that confuses drivers and leaves pedestrians and cyclists scrambling.

  • AnoNYC

    You should email that render to the community board. I much prefer that and I pass this area daily. Lots of pedestrian traffic in this area considering the nearby subways and overall density. Some ground level commercial spaces at that location too.

    Intervale Ave is wide at that point and drivers fly. At least the roundabout proposal will slow the traffic down. Now what to do with E 163rd? Double parking and speeding are huge issues. Traffic gets heavy eastbound during the PM.

  • Tyler

    The DOT is great at making ridiculous things like roundabouts WITH lights…. not just lights on the feeder streets, but lights INSIDE the circle. Like the two traffic circles at the top and bottom of Prospect Park SW in Brooklyn. Such dumb design.

  • Tyler

    Well, we couldn’t lose those FOUR parking spots, now could we?

  • ScottRAB

    Correctly designed modern roundabouts operate in the 15-20 mph range.

    The best modern roundabout design for cyclists provides two choices. The more confident cyclist should merge with through traffic and circulate like a motorist. This is made easier by the low-speed operational environment of the modern roundabout, which should not exceed 20 mph (30 kph).

    The less confident cyclist should be provided a ramp to exit the street and use a shared use path around the roundabout. Such paths are at
    least ten feet wide (4 m) and cyclist operate at low speeds, crossing at the pedestrian crossings.
    See http://tinyurl.com/roundabouts-and-bikes
    Sometimes space constraints, as with other intersection types, limit ideal design.

    Bikes in roundabouts videos:
    Clearwater Beach, Florida:

    La Jolla, California :

    Washington: http://tinyurl.com/reidmiddletonRAB
    Bend, Oregon: http://tinyurl.com/bikesRABBendOR
    New York DOT: http://tinyurl.com/bikeRABNYdot

    In other countries, separate cycle tracks are common and here’s a video of how they work at modern roundabouts http://tinyurl.com/cycletrackRAB .

  • red_greenlight1

    Thank you very much for the reply. While I haven’t watched all the videos I did most of them as well as read the Wiki article.

    I still do not believe most roundabouts are safe for cyclists here in the U.S. For example the dedicated path requires motorists to yield to cyclists twice. This is extremely likely to occur here in the states where even a simple stop sign is readily ignored. Drivers can’t be trusted to open their door so I fear the roundabout would be a disaster here in the city.

  • hannodb

    They can fix that by downloading the Traffic Manager Mod. Once installed, simply click on the in Traffic Manager button, and click on the intersections of the round about. This will remove the traffic lights.

    Remember than to also click on “Add priority signs”, to make sure the traffic in the round-about has right of way.

    Here’s a demo video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPYq2Xwu-wA

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