Lentol: Safety Improvements Coming to Meeker Avenue in 2016

The intersection with Skillman Avenue is just one of many unsafe crossing along Meeker Avenue in Williamsburg/Greenpoint. Image: Google Maps
The intersection with Skillman Avenue is one of many dangerous crossings along Meeker Avenue in Williamsburg/Greenpoint. Photo: Google Maps

DOT will present safety improvements next month for Meeker Avenue by the BQE in Williamsburg, according to Assembly Member Joe Lentol. The department told Lentol’s office it would bring a proposal to Brooklyn Community Board 1 on January 12.

Meeker Avenue runs under the BQE for a mile between North 6th Street and Vandevoort Avenue, dividing the neighborhood in half and posing risks to pedestrians and cyclists at nearly every corner. In 2014, 21-year-old Marisol Martinez was killed by an MTA bus driver while crossing the street at Union Avenue. In total, there were three fatalities and 104 injuries on Meeker between 2012 and 2014.

In April, Transportation Alternatives launched the Make Meeker Move campaign, calling on DOT to study pedestrian safety improvements and protected bike lanes along the corridor.

The next month, Lentol sent a letter to DOT requesting a pedestrian crossing where Skillman Avenue intersects with Meeker. DOT’s response indicates that the agency is looking primarily at ways to shorten crossing distances:

The Pedestrian Projects Group completed a field investigation at the above location. As a result of their investigation, this Department will be proposing improvements to this location, as well as other locations along Meeker Avenue (from Union to Metropolitan Avenues). Proposed improvements will include shorter crosswalks, wider sidewalks, improved signal timing and clear lane designations.

“Many people treat [Meeker Avenue] like the BQE,” Lentol said in a statement yesterday. “I have witnessed people going at least 50 miles per hour up and down Meeker Avenue. It is time we see safety improvements along this roadway to [slow] drivers down, and ultimately, save lives.”

  • All these surface streets under the BQE turn into expressways in their own right and there should be urgent action to address the many issues involved. I’ve thought for a while it would also make a lot of sense to build segregated bike lanes under the BQE. There’s a lot of wasted space at present. With thought, the space could become a high-capacity bike route.

  • BBnet3000

    I’d love to see this on 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park, connecting to the blah bike lanes of the rest of 3rd Ave in Park Slope.

    4th and 5th Aves already got crap “improvements” that put them in the bike map, but this area still lacks a good bike route going North-South. Connecting to a circuitous route around the Red Hook shoreline isn’t going to be good enough either.

  • I completely disagree. Who decides, “I’m going to go for a bike ride under a highway.” There are no stores on Meeker. Suggest as alternative to provide actual bicycle infrastructure on Nassau Ave or Bushwick Ave, where people are actually traveling.

  • Jeff

    Wait, what? I live in North Brooklyn and I use Meeker Ave all the time, for the same reason motorists do: It’s an express route that just tears right through the neighborhood! If it were safe to do so, many other cyclists would do so as well, just like many motorists (for whom the road is explicitly engineered to accommodate) do today!

    This isn’t for people “going for a bike ride”. You “go for a bike ride” on 9W or the West Side Bike Path or in Prospect Park or what have you. This is for people cycling for transportation.

  • mikecherepko

    I ride along Meeker because a hypotenuse is a quicker way than two legs of a triangle. And sometimes I ride under the BQE past all parked cars. And think about how there should be a bike lane there.

  • BotanistPrime

    I just ride in the middle where all the cars are parked. its almost already a bike lane.

  • r

    Why can’t we do both?

  • BBnet3000

    There’s no stores on Flushing or much of Kent and Jay Street either.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The intersection in the picture is an open invitation to speed down a side street, with predictable results. The curb on the right should extend beyond the row of parked cars and should bristle with bollards.

    Edit: As a rule of thumb, if you turn right into a street with a parking lane, the curb should extend out to prevent your car from using the extension of the parking lane into the intersection.

  • My apologies for not being clear.

    First, cycling for transportation is certainly subject to the same esthetic criteria as any other kind of travel. Walking or bicycling in dingy light under a noisy highway is plain unpleasant. Masochists will ride there regardless, but I would like bicycle facilities to appeal to hedonists as well as masochists.

    Second, with the new Kosciuszko Bridge bike lanes coming, it would be worth it to consider how the bike lanes could be accessed from low-stress streets near the bridge abutment, instead of right alongside the highway. The current alignment of the Williamsburg Bridge approach on the Manhattan side is a great example of this; the bridge path terminates in the MIDDLE OF AN ARTERIAL BOULEVARD. Again, great for masochists, not so great for hedonists. (The path used to end in a long flight of stairs that landed by the police station near Pitt St, which was great for avoiding car traffic, but not so great for climbing with heavy bicycles. Again, tops for masochists.)

  • Seen one Navy Yard once, seen them all. I cycled from the Pulaski Bridge to Park Slope one afternoon last month and was kind of disappointed at just how little water (or green) was visible from the soi-disant Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. And why can’t the path go straight through the industrial park and shave off the half-mile detour to the intersection of Flushing and Kent?

  • An important point: the Manhattan approach to the Williamsburg Bridge actually begins in the middle of an arterial boulevard (Delancey Street). This lane is one-way eastbound, that is, towards the bridge.

    Bicyclists who take this lane from the bridge, thereby ignoring the paint on the ground and two huge red “WRONG WAY” signs, are terrible embarassments as they display their presumption that rules don’t apply to them in front of a large and already hostile audience.

    It was great when DOT people would be present at the Manhattan landing in order to enforce this, and to remind arriving cyclists that they have to either turn left or turn right. I can remember one large fellow who placed himself between the “WRONG WAY” signs in order to physically prevent cyclists from defying them. I thanked that heroic chap effusively. Unfortunately, this DOT presence happened only a few times a year under Sadik-Khan, and has not yet once happened under the current commissioner.

  • Joe R.

    Riding under a highway is admittedly not pleasant, but it could be made much better with good lighting and designs to avoid conflicts with motor vehicles. While it’s true there often aren’t any points of interest under highways, that doesn’t mean bike routes there can’t serve a valid transportation and recreational function. In NYC especially, origins and destinations are separated by relatively large distances. Some bike routes which enable you to cover these distances fairly rapidly are essential. And at night when highway traffic is light such routes can serve as pleasant places for recreational cyclists to ride (provided they’re well lit and maintained).

    Last mile low-stress routes to points of interest are essential as well. Really, we need both types of infrastructure.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Electeds should instruct DOT to increase new miles of protected bike lanes from current goal of 5 per year to 50. Building 50 miles of protected bike lanes annually would result in mere 10% of NYCs streets having protected bike lanes by 2026 !

  • BBnet3000

    This is the opposite of an important point. More nonsense about cyclist behavior that isn’t going to go away without better street design. Quite a lot of people driving cars illegally turn over the median at Suffolk as well.

  • The signage is as clear as can be, with “WRONG WAY” on two red signs that flank the bike lane and are thus impossible to miss.

    Riding the wrong way on any street is bad behaviour. Riding the wrong way in a bike lane (and right between two large red “WRONG WAY” signs, to boot) is bad behaviour which spits in the eyes of the advocates who pushed for the creation of the lane, and of the authorities who responded to advocates’ pressure. Do not condone wrong-way riding; and do not condone the abuse of our hard-won bike infrastructure.

    Furthermore, mentioning drivers’ misbehaviour is a kind of demagoguery. Every cyclist and pedestrian is aware that drivers break the law, and, in so doing, create a serious hazard. This is no justifcation for cyclists’ act of ignoring clearly marked directional rules in a bike lane.

  • Simon Phearson

    Good god, you are tiresome.

  • BBnet3000

    The shoddy design of the infrastructure spits in the face of those who advocated for it. Anything that follows is just more spit.

  • There is nothing shoddy about that bike lane. It carries Suffolk Street’s southbound bike lane onto eastbound Delancey, thus providing a convenient way to approach the Williamsburg Bridge from the north.

    It’s a shame that any cyclist using that lane correctly has to worry about those cyclists who insist on riding in the lane the wrong way (right past signs that tell them in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is wrong), some of whom are maniacs who compound their wrong-way misbehaviour by going at irresponsibly high speeds.

    As a bike commuter who uses the Williamsburg Bridge every day, I am perfectly aware that drivers often blow the light on eastbound Delancey at Clinton Street, creating hazardous conditions. And I remember that there was recently some kind of police crackdown at that location which focussed solely on bikes while letting that deadly automobile situation go unadressed. This shows the screwed-up priorities of law enforcement and of the mainstream culture.

    Still, the fact that bicyclists on a regular basis blatantly ignore the clearest possible signage says something quite ugly about us as a group, as does the fact that this appalling behaviour finds defence in a pro-bicycle forum. Furthermore, the tendency for such flagrant disregarding of very obviously posted signs helps explain why we as a marginalised group continue to attract outsized attention from the police as compared to the far more dangerous scofflaws who are part of the dominant group (i.e., drivers).

  • The signs there say “WRONG WAY” in large white letters against a bright red background. These signs couldn’t be any more visible if they were blinking and spinning.

    That some bicyclists believe it’s acceptable to ignore these clear instructions is downright embarassing.

  • Simon Phearson

    And that you felt the need to bring out this dead horse to beat it some more, in response to a comment that has absolutely nothing to do with cyclist behavior, ought to be embarrassing to you.

  • The comment to which I responded did indeed have to do with cyclist behaviour.

    Someone wrote that the Williamsburg Bridge path “terminates” in the middle of an arterial boulevard. This indicates riding on that bike path in the wrong direction, and ignoring two huge “WRONG WAY” signs. Calling out this passive acceptance of misbehaviour by bicyclists is absolutely the right thing to do.

    At any rate, when the next mayor removes the centre-running Delancey Street bike lane in response to rampant abuse by speeding wrong-way riders coming off the bridge, then we will no longer have this issue to discuss.

  • Simon Phearson

    It doesn’t indicate that at all. If you’re riding down the Williamsburg bridge and following the signs (i.e., to turn north or south onto Clinton), your path still “terminates” in the middle of an arterial road.

    Even if you want to quibble over whether the path really “terminates” when it turns right or left into a signal-controlled intersection to proceed along painted bike lanes north or south – and of course I know that you do – the point of Jonathan’s comment is quite clear, and turns in no relevant way on where or whether we agree the Williamsburg bridge path “terminates.” His point was that the bridge brings you down into (or brings you out of) the middle of an incredibly busy street that has to be crossed if you want to use the bridge path. It’s designed for “masochists,” not “hedonists,” to use his terminology, and so works against the goal of increasing modeshare.

    Talking about rude cyclists who go the “wrong way” has nothing to do with his point. It’s a complete derail.

  • Hmm. If Jonathan had meant that the Williamsburg Bridge bike path ends at the intersection with Clinton Street (which, as you mentioned, features a signalised crossing with painted lanes going in both directions), I doubt that he would have termed that “in the middle of an arterial boulevard”, with all caps for emphasis, or that he would have characterised this location as being fit for masochists. But only he can tell us this for sure.

    I certainly made the assumption that the “in the middle of an arterial boulevard” bit was meant to refer to Delancey and Suffolk, which necessarily involves riding right past Clinton and going the wrong way on the one-way bike lane in the centre of Delancey. If that assumption is correct, then calling attention to the fact that he shouldn’t be doing that in the first place remains perfectly valid.

    If that assumption is incorrect, then I would apologise for criticising him for this bad behaviour to which he did not admit. But I would then strongly question the assertion that going north or south at the light at Clinton Street is at all problematic.

  • Simon Phearson

    The entrance to the path at Delancey and Suffolk is not materially different than the exit at Clinton. Both intersections have painted lanes through them, are controlled by lights, and provide physical separation to cyclists on the Williamsburg Bridge path. They’re both equivalently “masochistic.” The reading you’re trying to sustain here is just not tenable.

    Again, the relevant sense of the path “terminating” is sufficiently clear in Jonathan’s original comment, and your continuing efforts to read into it some acceptance of necessarily “rude” cyclist behavior are increasingly absurd. He was talking about a large piece of cycling infrastructure that ends in the middle of Delancey, which has four lanes of car traffic in both directions at any point you’d enter or exit the Williamsburg Bridge path.

  • A bicyclist coming off the bridge and stopping at Clinton Street finds himself/herself protected on a wide sidewalk while waiting at the light to go north or south. This is no worse than (actually significantly better than) a typical intersection.

  • Simon Phearson

    A typical intersection doesn’t direct substantial bike and pedestrian traffic across four lanes of car traffic. The comparison you’re drawing here is irrelevant.

  • What the hell are you talking about? Plenty of intersections have bicyclists and pedestrians crossing far more than four lanes, sometimes twice that. The fact that this particular crossing is found at the end of the Williamsburg Bridge bike path doesn’t create any special problem.

    Once you land in Manhattan, you stop and wait for the light at Clinton. Crossing the four lanes of Delancey in either direction while you have the light is nothing special. (Just don’t start out too soon if you are going south on Clinton, on account of the sociopathic drivers speeding through after they get the red.)

  • Simon Phearson

    Yeah, and you wouldn’t describe those kinds of intersections as anything other than “masochistic” toward cyclists and pedestrians.

    Please try to focus on the actual point at hand. Jonathan’s point was that the Manhattan approach on the Williamsburg Bridge is “masochistic,” as part of a larger criticism of how bike infrastructure is designed in this city. That’s quite clearly the case, as anyone with as many miles as you claim to rack up can attest. You don’t even have to go farther than the Brooklyn side of that bridge to find a much calmer, friendlier integration with the street/bike lane network.

  • Joe R.

    Not being all that familiar with this piece of infrastructure, I took a look at Google Maps. Ugh. This has to be one of the most brain-dead designs I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ll have cyclists carrying a good amount of speed from the descent hit what is essentially a dead-end. Wonderful. So they slam on the brakes and do an endover. Or perhaps run right into crowds of waiting pedestrians. I would have continued the Williamburg Bridge path, both directions, all the way to Allen Street to link up with the path there, via either a viaduct or a tunnel so cyclists coming off the bridge have 6 blocks to get their speed under control. In general any exit from a bridge needs to have at least a few blocks of runoff free of conflicts with cars or pedestrians so cyclists can gradually slow from the descent. I can easily see someone not familiar with the terminus of the Williamsburg crossing having an “oh shit!” moment at 30 or 40 mph when that dead end suddenly comes into view. One key factor designing good bike infrastructure is that people using it for the first time aren’t caught with any nasty surprises. Long descents by their very nature need runoffs regardless of where they’re located.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t condone wrong-way riding either BUT I think your criticisms here are off-base. This is a god-awful piece of infrastructure which by its nature results in the type of behavior you’re seeing. Maniacs going irresponsibly high-speeds? It’s at the end of a fucking long descent. What do you expect? At best cyclists are going to freewheel down any descent. A sizable number will power down them. Almost nobody will ride their brakes because you risk a blowout doing that on a long descent, plus doing this every day you’ll probably need new brake pads pretty often. So it’s reasonable to assume cyclists will be carrying a good amount of speed in that location. There just isn’t enough room at the end of the descent to get your speed under control. The approach should have been continued to Allen Street via either a tunnel or viaduct, then been connected to that bike lane via a flyover junction. Good bike infrastructure anticipates what cyclists want to do and plans accordingly. Bad infrastructure, which is what this is, tries (unsuccessfully I might add) to force cyclists to do things which are dangerous, very inconvenient, or both.

  • ahwr

    >The approach should have been continued to Allen Street via either a tunnel or viaduct

    The subway is directly under the bike path on the manhattan landing. Subway grade is mild and easy for cyclists to slow down. It also complicates your tunnel.

  • The descent is not that steep. There is no need to ride your breaks all the way. You can coast in at about 20 miles per hour, and stop easily at Clinton Street. I do this every day, as do many other people.

    Just because it is a downhill portion of road, this does not justify excessive speed. There are pedestrians crossing there who are entitled to be accomodated. There is also a bench; this is a public plaza. It would not be appropriate to allow bicyclists to continue at speed through Clinton Street, buzzing pedestrians and people lounging on the bench.

    There is nothing wrong with the configuration as it is; and the requirement for bicyclists to turn right or left at Clinton Street is easily managed, notwithstanding the antics of some antisocial riders.

  • Joe R.

    Then use a viaduct. There should be a flyover junction anyway even if there wasn’t a downgrade. That’s a very busy street with an unacceptably long red light cycle for cyclists or pedestrians. There should be a pedestrian overpass also so those who don’t mind climbing steps can avoid the long wait.

  • Joe R.

    Irrespective of the downgrade, having the path get to street level at Clinton causes unnecessary conflicts with crossing pedestrians, and unnecessarily delays cyclists waiting for the light to get across Delancy. A viaduct and flyover junction(s) to the bike paths at Clinton, Suffolk, and Allen would eliminate both these things. Yes, it’s expensive but we regularly spend many orders of magnitude more than that on car infrastructure. As you said, this is a highly visible location where poor cyclist behavior is amplified. Why not fix the infrastructure so cyclists *can’t* behave poorly?

  • Simon has interpreted my original comment in the manner that it was intended.

    To offer a positive example of hedonic appeal: The High Bridge is a fantastic crossing, in part because it links quiet side streets on each bank. It links fairly busy neighborhoods, but in a bicycle-friendly way that connects bicycle-friendly streets, not main arterials.

  • In that case, I apologise to you for saying that you were endorsing bad riding behaviour, specifically the wrong-way riding on the lane in the centre of Delancey Street.

    Also, you are right that the High Bridge’s entries are very pleasant, as they both are within parks.

    And Simon is right that the Williamsburg Bridge’s Brooklyn end is calmer than its Manhattan end. (At the Manhattan entry, the people who exhibit bad behaviour and who ignore signs are those pedestrians who walk on the bicycle side rather than going to Bedford Avenue in order to access the bridge’s walking side.)

    But I continue to disagree strongly with both of you on the assertion that the Manhattan end of the Williamsburg Bridge is problematic. The green phase of the signal at Clinton Street is long enough to allow crossing; and both directions lead one to a bike lane. Therefore this intersection is a good one for bicycles.

    The problem for us at that location, as I mentioned earlier, is the tendency for bridge-bound drivers to speed through the first second of their red light at Clinton Street. But this is not a problem with the infrastructure; the solution here is better enforcement.

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