Here’s the DOT Plan for a Safer Ninth Street in Park Slope

The redesign will narrow crossing distances 26 percent, add painted pedestrians islands, and provide physical protection for the Ninth Street bike lane.

Image: NYC DOT
Image: NYC DOT

Last night, DOT presented the plan for protected bike lanes and safer pedestrian crossings on Ninth Street between Prospect Park and Third Avenue [PDF]. The Brooklyn Community Board 6 transportation committee unanimously endorsed the project.

DOT moved swiftly to redesign Ninth Street after the horrific March 5 crash in which Dorothy Bruns struck and killed two small children, Joshua Lew and Abigail Blumenstein, driving west at Fifth Avenue. Bruns also injured their mothers, Lauren Lew and Ruthie Ann Blumenstein, terminating Blumenstein’s pregnancy.

In May, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the redesign is a mayoral priority and will go in this summer with or without a community board endorsement. Implementation is scheduled for later this summer.

While Ninth Street has buffered bike lanes, it remains wide for a street with just two through lanes for motor vehicles, which encourages speeding, especially for westbound drivers going downhill. Crossing distances are long, and some sections of the bike lane are constantly blocked by double-parked vehicles.

“I avoid Ninth Street with my children,” said Sarah Glacel, who bikes with her children and brought her 6-year-old and 8-year-old daughters to the meeting. “I’m scared to death of it because it’s dangerous.”

9th street intersection
The intersection design at Fifth Avenue. Image: NYC DOT

The redesign shortens crossing distances 26 percent. Flipping the bike lane and the parking lane visually narrows the roadway, which should reduce speeding. Bike lanes will run curbside, where double-parking won’t interfere. At four feet wide with a three-foot buffer, the bike lanes are on the narrow side, though DOT has recently added protected bike lanes with the same seven-foot horizontal clearance on busier biking streets than Ninth Street.

At intersections, the redesign retains the left turn pockets for motor vehicles, adding “qwick kurbs” along the center line to prevent drivers from cutting corners.

DOT also plans to implement versions of the “off-set crossing” design it’s been testing in Manhattan over the past year. The treatment consists of painted pedestrian islands and plastic posts that lead motorists to take slower turns and make cyclists and pedestrians more visible to them. DOT also plans to “daylight” every intersection, removing parking from the area closest to the crosswalk to improve visibility.

An "offset crossing" on the Upper West Side. Photo: Lisa Sladkus
An “offset crossing” on the Upper West Side. Photo: Lisa Sladkus

Bus stops will remain on the sidewalk, however, which means at those locations there will be no pedestrian islands. DOT’s Ted Wright said the agency likes the idea of floating bus stops on Ninth Street, but that they would necessitate the reconstruction of street corners, and DOT lacks the budget for implementation at this time.

The absence of concrete concerned some committee members and Council Member Brad Lander, who was not in attendance but sent a surrogate to read a statement urging DOT to pursue more robust measures in a future capital redesign. He suggested raised crosswalks at busy intersections like Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue.

A few parents in the room also expressed the feeling that the bike lane would benefit cyclists, but not pedestrians. But redesigns that include protected bike lanes are some of DOT’s biggest pedestrian safety success stories. Across the city, protected lanes have resulted in a 22 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries, and a 17 percent reduction in total crashes with injuries, according to city data.

Most others raved about the plan, urging DOT to be more ambitious.

“I really think Ninth Street should be a model street. We’re in a family-dense neighborhood,” said Kathy Park Price, who shared a drawing by her 4-year-old and 6-year-old children of their ideal street redesign, which featured neckdowns, planters in the painted islands, and crosswalks with art (and unicorns).

  • Jeff

    Congrats to the activists who made this happen!

    I do think, however, that more experienced cyclists (who don’t want to risk NYPD harassment for not using the bike lane) can and should begin using parallel streets, especially when heading west (downhill).

  • Resident

    I actually hope the city holds off on casting anything in concrete. This is a good first step toward a safer street, no question, but the design leaves a lot to be desired at least as far as long-term planning goes. Cycling is showing no sign of slowing down, especially in neighborhoods like Park Slope and the coming 4th Ave bike lane will accelerate that growth dramatically. Plus, if NYC gets to a place where it reduces car-ownership and figures out that it should charge for parking, there will be more space for wider bike lanes, floating bus stops, and more pedestrian space. No need to spend a ton of money for something that will need to be changed in the near future. One day, when this city reigns in cars, 9th Street really could be a model street.

  • 8FH

    I don’t understand why there’s a 5′ center buffer and only 4′ wide bike lanes. Why not remove the center buffer and make the bike lanes 6′ wide?

  • Jeff

    Fully grown adults driving cars are incapable of shifting lane positions, and therefore the buffer is needed to allow the lane positions to remain consistent at intersections with left turn pockets.

  • 8FH

    As a sometimes driver, sudden lane shifts can be disconcerting, and I can see how they could lead to increased collisions. But why not just have a gradually widening center buffer (and reduced width bike lane) just on the blocks with left turn pockets? IDK. Might not be worth the effort.

  • vanshnookenraggen

    I live out there and let me tell you, double parking is a religion. The buffer is so drivers can get around the double parked cars. I’m not defending it (I fucking hate biking down double parked streets) but it’s a reasoning.

  • 8FH

    I live in Dyker. 5th Ave. consistently has multiple vehicles double parked on every single block, and there’s no buffer in the center. I think @disqus_StgnOI20PN:disqus may be correct here.

  • Eric McClure

    Emergency vehicle access. Conversely, we could actually choose to enforce laws against double parking.

  • J

    or actually manage our precious curb space by charging a market rate for parking.

  • J

    Super narrow lanes, weird 5′ median buffer. Awkward and dangerous bus/bike conflict. Sort-of protected intersections are a step in the right direction, but why is everything restricted to a zillion baby steps when the engineers at DOT should know better.

  • J

    A well designed bike lane should work for everyone. If this does not, DOT needs to go back to the drawing board.

  • Eric McClure

    That too.

  • Kathy

    Thank you David for this excellent, clear reporting of the meeting and plan.

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