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Safety First! DOT Revisiting Fourth Avenue Road Diet for Bay Ridge

CB 10 rejected a plan back in 2013 to convert Fourth Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one. But the DOT says it’s now reviewing it again.

Transportation officials say they will dust off an old plan to slow down speedsters in Bay Ridge — a life-saving proposal residents are now demanding even though their local community board killed it in 2013.

“We are aware of the request and will take another look at the plan,” said a Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The confirmation came after a public safety meeting in Bay Ridge last week, where safe streets advocate Brian Hedden pleaded with Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to put Fourth Avenue between Ovington Avenue and 86th Street on a road diet that would convert two lanes of traffic in each direction to one, with a center turn lane to keep car traffic flowing.

More than five years ago, the DOT acquiesced to the car-crazed board and put the kibosh on the street safety plan — a decision that helped no one, according to Hedden. Eighty-eight people, including 10 cyclists and 31 pedestrians, have still been injured along that stretch of the thoroughfare in 326 crashes since 2016 — that’s basically 100 crashes per year.

"People are still getting hurt,” said Hedden, earning applause from other attendees of the meeting. “That was a big mistake to not carry that plan through.”

Officials had pitched the Fourth Avenue road diet after two pedestrians were killed along the roadway in 2013 — and it was part of a larger plan to slow down drivers on one of Brooklyn’s main arteries that travels from Bay Ridge up to Park Slope.

But unlike in Bay Ridge, the other community boards were more inclined to stop their neighbors from getting hurt on the road by supporting the much-needed street safety redesigns.

In 2014, the city pushed forward its plan to trim the number of car lanes from three in each direction to two along most of the street between Atlantic Avenue and 15th Street. Pedestrian injuries dropped 61 percent immediately following the changes, which also included widened medians and shortened crossing distances.

And in Sunset Park in 2012, the city moved forward with a similar road diet project, which included cutting traffic from three lanes to two in each direction on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue from 65th Street to 15th Street. Changes on what was considered one of the deadliest streets in Brooklyn also included widening the medians.

Just like in Park Slope, the number of crashes and pedestrian injuries fell significantly — pedestrian injuries decreased by 29 percent. In the six years before the road diet, there were seven fatalities along that 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, Streetsblog reported at the time.

Hedden blasted DOT for giving the community board the power to unilaterally stop such a much-needed plan in its tracks.

“This time around, please do not give any one group veto power over safety,” he said.

Well, this time around, a lot has changed. Bay Ridge is more and more into street safety with calls for the neighborhood's first protected bike lane and demands for NYPD to crack down on reckless drivers. Plus, new elected officials are filling the local seats. Council Member Justin Brannan, who succeeded anti-safety Council Member Vincent Gentile, has already said he would support the new plan. And State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who beat street safety pariah Marty Golden last year, backed the original plan when he was just a CB10 member. He was one of just a few board members to vote in favor of the road diet, telling Streetsblog at the time he would back anything to stop the carnage.

“I supported it because something needs to be done, and as long as people keep dying on our streets, I’m willing to try anything,” Gounardes said in 2013.

And on Tuesday, Brannan celebrated the news that DOT would start implementing safety improvements on 86th Street between Third Avenue and Shore Road — a street he called a "speedway after dark." Changes include reducing two lanes of traffic to one in each direction, and installing bike lanes in each direction.

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