Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 10 voted on a slate of pedestrian safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge. While a number of smaller changes, such as wider crosswalks and curb extensions, received the board’s support, the board rejected the centerpiece of the plan – trimming traffic lanes to slow speeding drivers [PDF].
The current high-speed environment on Fourth Avenue contributes to a high rate of injuries and deaths. Two pedestrians have been killed along this stretch of the street this year alone. One driver killed a woman crossing mid-block at 86th Street, and weeks later another motorist fatally struck an elderly woman while turning onto Fourth from 82nd Street.
The road diet called for converting Fourth Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, with a center turn lane, from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street [PDF]. From 101st Street to 95th Street the changes would have applied only to the northbound side.
In May, CB 10′s transportation committee recommended that the full board support the road diet. This positive vote was undercut in August by newly-elected board chair Brian Kieran, who previously served as transportation committee chair. Even though the road diet was refined over months of public workshops, Kieran urged board members to ignore the committee’s recommendations and instead pick and choose from the proposal.
Last night, the board voted down the road diet: The vote for the section from 101st Street to 95th Street was 7-29, and 4-32 for the section from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street.
“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,” committee member Andrew Gounardes told Streetsblog. “At the end of the day it’s just paint. If it doesn’t work, we can put it back.”
“This is the main piece of the proposal. All of the other stuff we are doing will not save as many pedestrian lives as this one piece alone, but people are not willing to hear it,” committee member Bob HuDock told Streetsblog, adding that many board members were worried the road diet would create congestion, even though DOT’s studies showed that it would not. ”It was a rehash of all the same old tired arguments we’ve been hearing for the past two years,” HuDock said of board members’ objections.
Some board members said they wanted the avenue to keep its current format, even if it endangers residents walking in the neighborhood. “I think Fourth Avenue must remain a thoroughfare, even to the detriment of locality use,” board member Judy Grimaldi said at the meeting, according to a report from Brooklyn Daily.
Following the committee’s lead, the board also voted against DOT’s proposals for a pedestrian island, pedestrian fence, and left turn lane at the busy intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, though it did support a curb extension on the southwest corner of the intersection.