The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Flatbush Needs A Brake-Over

Happy Thanksgiving fellow Q-sters! I thought I'd take a moment to express my gratitude...for crossing Flatbush not 20 minutes ago without getting hit by a B41 and a speeding lane-changing Dollar Van. What good fortune! Then it hit me. Not the bus or van, but a simple truth, and perhaps a solution. Here goes...(warning: serious geeking out taking place just ahead).

I had just ridden my bike down Parkside Avenue heading east from the glorious tennis bubbles and noticed what a calm and pleasant ride I'd just had, with even the confidence to look up at the progress at "123 on the Park" a/k/a the Caledonian Apartments. After crossing Ocean Ave, I felt I'd best dismount and walk the bike on the sidewalk; I was feeling way exposed to all manner of vehicles, and then, despite making the safer mode of movement, and while walking WITH the pedestrian light at Flatbush, I nearly got reamed by said bus and van. So what exactly changed from Parkside A to Parkside B? A lot actually. Both roadways were busy, but the vehicular temperature changed completely by the time I got to the 'Bush.

Turns out that the street width from curb to curb is roughly the same on Parkside as Flatbush. However, the newly painted traffic lanes on Parkside, Park Circle to Ocean, have just ONE lane of traffic in each direction. There is a narrow yellow checked "demilitarized zone" between the moving lanes. And the parking lane is wide enough to fit a truck (like the ever-present Olde Good Things rig, more on them here), with a clearly marked outside edge, which has the added benefit of making it less likely you'll open your door into a moving vehicle. Traffic moves smoothly along Parkside, in part because there's no temptation to try to cut in front of other cars. The merging in and out of lanes is part of the frustration drivers feel on Flatbush. Dollar Vans, whose income depends on speed of travel, are practically encouraged to create their own zigzag routes in the poorly designed traffic scheme.

I haven't taken a tape measure to it, but my foot is about a foot, so my best walked estimate is that DOT has tried to construct six lanes (four for driving, two for parking) on Flatbush with just 48 feet to work with. Below are the suggested widths of streets per Seattle's version of the DOT (I know, I know, but let's assume for a moment their experts know SOMETHING about traffic safety?) Here's what they use as standards:

Lane Type Standard Lane Width
Parking lane 8 feet
Parking lane on bus route 10 feet
Through traffic lane 11 feet
Curb lane 12 feet
Bus only lane 12 feet
Turn only lane 12 feet
Curb lane (vehicle/bicycle) 14 feet

So basically, NYC's DOT is allowing six lanes with just 8 feet each, the absolute minimum standard for a PARKING lane according to the above. And we have buses, dollar vans, delivery bicycles, double-parkers, 18-wheelers... When the DOT finishes its traffic study this coming Spring, if there is no suggestion of limiting traffic to one lane each direction (allowing too for the inevitability of double-parkers along these commercial streets), I will go on hunger strike. *

Before another pedestrian, bicyclist or motorist is killed on this dastardly road, we need someone to take responsibility for safety on the Flabenue. An elected official? A public servant? A dedicated bureaucrat? Anyone?

*hunger strike to conclude only when the DOT sees the error of its ways, or one day after commencing, whichever comes first.


Anonymous said...

YES YES YES! A most excellently researched suggestion. I would like to add, however, that part of the Flabenue's hazardous charm for bikers and drivers comes from the ever present double parking -- so without the yellow DMZ zone between lanes of traffic (also used as a turn lane when appropriate), things could get really hairy with cars + bikes trying to swerve around delivery trucks or someone running in for their chicken fix. But Parkside is much safer for bikers and drivers.
I'm still holding out for a fancy separated bike lane situation on Parkside like the *other* side of the park has though, and hey, why not down Flatbush too? (dreaming big!)

ElizabethC said...

ALmost getting hit by a truck is starting to become a daily occurrence when taking my dog back and forth from the park. I just don't understand why I have the right of way, and apparently the trucks do as well. I yelled at one driver who looked baffled.
what can we do?

Bob Marvin said...

I very much agree. Crossing Flatbush on foot is dangerous AND, when I drive there (which I usually ONLY do from Winthrop to Parkside) that narrow second traffic lane forces me to go halfway into the other (real) lane whenever I have to pass a legally parked truck. One lane would be MUCH safer, assuming there was also a real effort to control double parking.

Susan Lowes said...

Would wider lanes stop drivers from going through red lights with abandon? Crossing at Flatbush and Parkside or Winthrop is a hazard because cars routinely ignor the lights--often two or three cars speed through. I think cameras would be really helpful.

Anonymous said...

I agree Flatbush needs to be a priority for DOT but as someone who lives on Ocean, I wonder why Prospect Park West has dedicated bike lanes, a large lane for parking and also does not have to move there cars twice a day. Could it be that the city pays more attention to a wealthy nabe on the other side of the park and ignores the largely minority population on this side of the park. I am sure that cannot be it.

Rudy on Winthrop said...

My three proposals for reform, in order of increasing radicalism:

(1) Eliminate one-third of the on-street parking on Flatbush between (say) Linden and Lincoln and build out the sidewalks 8' at each intersection, forcing traffic to slow, and requiring pedestrians to cross less asphalt from curb to curb.

(2) Triple the number of B41 express buses; change the licensing of dollar vans to permit pickups only on streets not served by MTA express lines.

(3) Charge $7 for cars to drive north on Flatbush from Empire to GAP. Use the money to build a bike path above the S & Q lines.

diak said...

As much as I hate to sound like the gun lobby, I going to suggest that before we create a slew of new rules and regs, how about we try real serious enforcement of the laws we have. You can paint all the stripes and add all the lights and limits you want, but if a large portion of the driving public feels that the lanes and lights and restrictions don't apply to them—and the NYPD has no interest in holding those people accountable—then the chaos on our streets will continue.

Rudy on Winthrop said...

Of course Diak's right about that.