Changes are coming to Fourth Avenue.
As part of Vision Zero, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that it will adjust to its original plan traffic plan for the strip, including the potential addition of protected bike lanes in several neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge and Sunset Park.
On Thursday, March 16 DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stated that the agency would work with affected communities to help to develop the new plan for Fourth Avenue, some three years after an extended planning process, carried out in conjunction with local community boards, resulted in sweeping traffic changes along the avenue, varying from neighborhood to neighborhood but all with the intention of making the strip safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“The chance to redesign one of New York City’s ‘Great Streets’ may only come about every 50 years, and so it’s critical we get it right,” Trottenberg said. “The dramatic surge in cycling, combined with safety changes that have dramatically improved Fourth Avenue’s safety and livability, have simply transformed the way Brooklynites see this street.”
According to the DOT, the new parking-protected bike lanes on both sides of the streets would be a significant safety upgrade. A recent study conducted by the DOT, Cycling in the City, showed a massive increase in cycling in Brooklyn with an 83 percent growth in daily cycling between 2010 and 2015. It also stated that streets with protected bike lanes provided significant safety benefits for all street-users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, with total injuries on those streets down by an average of 20 percent.
In 2015, Tony Giordano, founder of Facebook group Sunset Parker, held a meeting with DOT representatives and elected officials to discuss research on DOT traffic configurations along Fourth Avenue that resulted from the prior set of changes, which he claimed had led to more accidents than in the past.
Among these were a reduction to two lanes of moving traffic in each direction, the banning of certain left turns and a widened center median, as well as changed signal timing, narrowed travel lanes, and shorter and more visible crosswalks. Subsequently, the city speed limit was lowered to 25 miles per hour. Speed cameras were also added in several school zones in 2014. These moves reduced serious pedestrian crashes by around 68 percent, according to DOT data.
Giordano salutes this latest development because of its potential to lessen the impact of through traffic on the neighborhood. “I’m excited that after three years of an uphill battle, the members of Sunset Parker Facebook were able to change the position of NYC DOT from ‘it is not feasible’ to it will begin to happen this year,” he said. “I believe we are taking the first step in undoing the damage done to Sunset Park by the elevated Gowanus Expressway. Our membership applauds this decision.”
The DOT contends that a Fourth Avenue bike lane would be a critical north-south thoroughfare from 65th Street to Dean Street, connecting Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Park Slope to Downtown Brooklyn, and adding eight protected lane-miles to New York City’s 1,100-mile bike-lane network. It says that the new bike lanes could be installed on portions of the corridor as soon as this year, with community support. The agency is planning to hold workshops and follow-up presentations in conjunction with the impacted community boards.
“Before we undertake construction that will transform the corridor for decades, we look forward to engaging with elected officials, neighborhoods and community boards to consider changes to our original plans,” added Trottenberg.
They can expect to hear from Giordano and other local activists. “We will continue to lobby for additional changes along Fourth Avenue to protect the air that we breathe and the safety of pedestrians,” Giordano said. “We want protected walking zones on the sidewalks in front of our two car washes and each gas station and driveway that intersects Fourth Avenue. But for now, we are rejoicing at this step that will do so much to lessen our role as a commuter traffic corridor for Long Island and New Jersey.”