Pedestrian Injuries Down 61% on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope After Road Diet

DOT text. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT will cast the Fourth Avenue road diet in concrete after impressive street safety gains. Image: DOT [PDF]
As in Sunset Park, the Fourth Avenue road diet has yielded impressive street safety dividends for Park Slope, including a 61 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. Now, DOT is moving forward with plans to cast its changes in concrete.

Between Atlantic Avenue and 15th Street, the road diet widened medians, shortened crossing distances, and trimmed the number of car lanes from three in each direction to two along most of the street (the northernmost blocks retained the same number of lanes). The changes were implemented using paint and flexible bollards.

After the redesign, pedestrian injuries on this stretch of Fourth Avenue fell 61 percent, total crashes dropped 20 percent, and crashes with injuries were reduced by 16 percent, according to DOT, which compared one year of post-implementation crash data to the prior three-year average [PDF]. The improvements were especially dramatic at 3rd Street, where crashes fell 41 percent, and at 9th Street, where they fell 59 percent.

DOT also tracked speeding after 9 p.m. on weekdays, with the prevalence of drivers traveling above 35 mph falling by about three-quarters, from 29 percent of southbound drivers before the road diet to just 7 percent after. (The drop in the citywide default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph took effect days after DOT finished collecting its data last year.)

Car traffic levels and travel times stayed mostly steady, with southbound evening volumes falling slightly and mixed results for northbound morning volumes. Pedestrian volumes also held steady.

DOT is now proposing to build out the changes in permanent materials, installing a raised median that offers room for tree plantings and protects subway vents from flooding. Benches will be added in the median at pedestrian crossings. Curb extensions will also be added to the south corners of Fourth Avenue and Prospect Avenue, and the sidewalk will be widened on Fourth Avenue between 34th Street and 36th Street, on the side next to Green-Wood Cemetery.

While extra-wide parking lanes added to Fourth Avenue have given some breathing room to cyclists, they also provide space for double-parked cars. Casting the existing design in concrete could make it more difficult to add protected bike lanes to the street in the future.

The project will be built in phases, some of which are not yet funded. The first phase covers two sections, between 8th Street and 18th Street in Park Slope and between 33rd Street and 52nd Street in Sunset Park. These segments received federal funding, and construction is set to begin in spring 2017.

The second phase would bridge the gap from 18th to 33rd Streets, with construction projected to begin in spring 2018. The final phases, which run from 8th Street north to Atlantic Avenue and 52nd Street south to 65th Street, are not funded.

Fourth Avenue is part of the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Great Streets initiative, which is distributing $250 million in capital funding to the reconstruction of dangerous arterials. Of that funding, $100 million is going to Queens Boulevard. Fourth Avenue will share the remaining $150 million with the Grand Concourse and Atlantic Avenue.

DOT presented the data and its capital project plans to the Brooklyn Community Board 6 transportation committee last Thursday. There was a unanimous vote in support of the plan, but not enough board members to constitute a quorum. A recommendation to support the capital project is likely to come up at the next CB 6 general board meeting on May 13.

  • J

    So this is what “Complete streets” and “Vision Zero” looks like? 19′ wide center medians, 13′ wide parking lanes, and literally nothing for cyclists?

    4th Ave is precisely where protected bike lanes need to go! Bicycling simple must be a part of street redesign.

  • Ben_Kintisch

    Agreed with J. If you shift the parking lanes in, you can get simple curbside bike lanes for many blocks – a great new safer corridor.

  • AlexWithAK

    Agreed. There’s room to put in protected bike lanes but once they widen the median, that room will largely be gone. The wide parking lanes could be modified, but a good fully protected bike lane will be more difficult.

  • multimodal

    While I would love a protected bike lane on 4th, it seems more likely to me that we will get an improved two-way lane on 3rd instead. Especially now that they’ve announced the Hamilton bike lane plans… From my point of view 3rd is just as good as 4th. A safe protected lane from Hamilton to Bergen would be phenomenal.

  • AnoNYC

    Why not leave as is and use the money to reconfigure another death trap?

  • HamTech87

    I think we need them on both 3rd and 4th avenues.

  • multimodal

    Agreed, that would be great. And certainly the 4th ave route to Bay Ridge would be more pleasant to ride. But just speaking practically for a second, I think it’s more likely that 4th stays like this for a while and 3rd gets the two-way lane first.

  • Its very easy to undo paint for one thing. Also, drivers ignore paint, casting concrete curbs should yield additional benefits. Is it enough to warrant the cost, I don’t know.

  • HamTech87

    Sigh. It is just so mean-spirited. And once that concrete goes in, it will be 30 years until an alternative is considered. I’m sure there will be a “conservancy” that plants flowers, and won’t want anything to touch their precious medians….

    It is not about the adults going long distances. It is about those kids in the neighborhood who with protected bike lanes on BOTH avenues learn to ride their bikes everywhere, and do it protected from motorists.

  • multimodal

    Yeah, it’s true, and dispiriting, especially when you consider how practically useless the 5th avenue double parking lane — I mean, “bike lane” — is.

  • Julio

    I’m a resident of 4th Ave in Sunset Park. I’ll generally appreciate the improved aesthetics of the concrete medians, but sadly they’ll eliminate the de facto bike lane on 4th Avenue created by the yellow stripes next to the current concrete median. It’s especially convenient for turning left, but is generally more useful than riding on the right side because of the prevalence of double parking on 4th Ave.

  • AlexWithAK

    A center-running bike lane on either side of the media protected by jersey barriers (similar to Sans St) would have been nice.

  • BBnet3000

    I doubt it. A 2-way lane on one side of a grid is too dangerous, which is why today you only see them up against natural boundaries (including Kent and the proposed Hamilton which only have little stubby streets with a small amount of traffic crossing them).

    3rd Avenue is really not an alternative to 4th Avenue. They go in totally different directions and for regular transportation use it is one hell of a detour to go around Red Hook unless you are going to Red Hook.

  • BBnet3000

    Vision Zero in New York (note: San Francisco is doing it differently) means setting the existing mode choice in concrete.

  • Geck

    Not take advantage of that available space for a protected bike lane would be a real missed opportunity.

  • Thorin Messer

    Am I crazy or is there is no “diet” here? Same number of lanes, same width of lanes, same amount of parking.

  • qrt145

    The diet happened a couple of years ago and was implemented in paint (for example, the median buffer). The proposal now is to expand the median for real.

  • snobum

    I believe this is being done with federal money dedicated to this project. It can’t just be shifted around.

  • The time to get a protected bike lane on 3rd Ave is now. As the area continues to change and new buildings go up, it will be very hard to change the street if we wait too long. Think of Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. Imagine if the bike lane there didn’t exist and the city wanted to get it in now. It couldn’t. People would scream about losing parking or how hard it is to drive to their condo.

  • multimodal

    I hear you about the two-way lane. I just recall an elected official talking about working for that — Menchaca, maybe? But protected lanes on either side with bike lights would be the ideal.

    I don’t quite understand what you mean regarding 3rd and 4th — they are parallel for their entire lengths, and neither goes to Red Hook or requires a detour around Red Hook, at least not one more than the other. What am I missing?

  • multimodal

    Absolutely agree. I think also since they screwed up the zoning on 4th and there is going to be very little street level retail, it would seem, most of that new stuff is popping up on 3rd. If a protected bike lane isn’t put in we’ll have another disaster like 5th avenue on our hands.

  • BBnet3000

    The 3rd Ave change is part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, which is why the 2-way they’re about to build curves west with Hamilton to go to Red Hook. It looks like they’re going to leave the connection to the northern part of 3rd Ave the way it already is (taking the lane on a 3 lane one way near-highway). Of course, depending on your destination you could take Hamilton and meet Smith/9th/Clinton (I use Clinton N-B because Jay is miserable).

    Not sure why Greenways are so siloed from the rest of the cycling infrastructure. For instance, the utility of Kent and Flushing Ave is really cut down by Franklin and Vanderbilt not having any real bike facilities.

  • multimodal

    I live on 15th so that is probably the exact route I would take, even though it feels out of the way and I would prefer 3rd > Bergen > Smith/Jay (I usually take the Manhattan), assuming that the infrastructure was improved. I currently usually take Smith/Jay and regret it.

    My assumption in advocating for a 3rd ave protected lane would be that the connection at Hamilton/Gowanus Expwy would be improved from the craziness that exists there now. Of course in an ideal world, 4th would be better — simpler, and NOT UNDER THE GOWANUS — but then the drivers in Bay Ridge wouldn’t have their Autobahn to Flatbush.

  • Why on earth doesnt the center median include bicycle lanes?

  • Thorin Messer

    Ah, I get it now, thank you for that.

  • JudenChino

    Lol, they could fit a two way cycle track in there.

  • AlexWithAK

    They’d probably tell you it’s because of the subway vents, but even with those there’s still room.

  • JDC
  • JDC

    Why settle? Would motorists be OK if there were no car lanes on 3rd Ave? “Well, there’s space for me over on 4th. I’ll go for a drive over there.”

  • multimodal

    Well, from the article it sounds like this is basically a done deal… unless I misunderstand the final paragraph, which is more than possible.

  • DOT to cyclists: Drop dead.

  • dr2chase

    It’s idiotic to reserve that much space in the middle for nothing. Why not shrink buffers to zero, move 10 and 11-foot lanes in, take the remaining 17 feet and split it 9 and 8 for parking and bikes? If money must be spent on concrete, raise the bike lane a little bit.

  • Daniel

    I feel that to work at the DOT you should be required ride a bicycle and walk down the length of any street with young children before they propose a redesign of that street. I go out of my way to avoid 4th Ave, but was directed onto it with my 6 y.o. daughter when Dean St was blocked by the police one day. It is still a total hellscape. It needs to have a parking protected cycle track ASAP. The 13′ parking lane can be made 8′, But that only gives you 5′. That is not enough. They need to figure out the space needed for the bicycle lanes on each side of the street before they expand the median in concrete. Putting in a double parking bicycle lane next to a four lane highway is unacceptable. The lane needs to be fully protected.

    It’s hard to believe how badly the city screewed up the zoning on that corridor. It screams for R7B with C2 overlay, i.e. commercial required. But I think that can still be fixed, there is enough demand for pedestrian destinations there that if they fix the zoning many of the buildings will spend the money on a new C/O and any renovation required.

  • WalkingTeacher

    Just 2 thoughts to consider: 1. The center area also has to accommodate the left turn lane at some intersections, so it is not always 19 feel wide. 2. While not ideal for biking, these changes have drastically improved safety (wider place to stand, improved visibility) for the many pedestrians trying to cross 4th Ave, many of whom are kids going to or from school

  • WalkingTeacher

    It is not always 19 ft wide, also includes the left turn lane as many intersections

  • WalkingTeacher

    It is not always 19 ft wide, also includes the left turn lane at many intersections

  • HamTech87

    The left turn lane is not a necessity, but a choice made to speed cars. On Broadway in Manhattan, there are almost no left turn lanes.

    And what about the kids who could bicycle to school? What is making it safer for them?