29 April 2009

Reverse the Curse

Walking down 8th Avenue and reaching the corner of President this morning there was yet another traffic accident, two cars, one up on the curb, just at 8.15 am.

Cars honking, rushing to get past and muscle through the intersection at Union Street, and hundreds of families walking their kids to school and then heading off to work.

Just as many faces were cast down looking at their iPhones and Blackberries as those looking to see if anyone was hurt. One tow truck driver broke at least three laws barreling through the mess trying to get to wherever HE wanted to go. The unabated selfishness among some "citizens" of this city is truly incomprehensible.

Luckily there is SOMETHING we can do.

I have petitions in my office and plan on tabling with them over the next few days called "Reverse the Curse." Sponsored by Park Slope Neighbors, Reverse the Curse seeks to petition Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation, to restore TWO-WAY traffic patterns to 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West. As a moral neighborhood issue where every year deaths or serious injuries occur because lawless driving on these two thoroughfares, we are obligated to do something. And slowing down traffic would help.

Here is what you can do:

1. Write the Commissioner and let her know how you feel.

2. Come in and sign the petition, come take some and get them signed yourself. But please help.

This is how the world gets changed: one street at a time.


Andy Bachman said...

BTW: It took me thirty seconds to fill out the form on the DOT site--one of Mayor Bloomberg's proud technological innovations with regard to City Government.

Mobius said...

Could you explain how/why restoring two-way traffic on those roads will reduce accidents. I don't quite understand. Is it because people drive more recklessly on one-way streets?

Andy Bachman said...

Traffic experts agree that two-way traffic actually slows things down. Yes, people drive faster and weave in and out of traffic more recklessly on one-way streets.

Aaron said...

I'm glad you wrote this, Andy. In the last few months a cyclist and pedestrian have been hit by vehicles and killed on 8th Avenue within blocks of the synagogue during the morning rush hour.

Can you imagine the outcry if two of our neighbors had been accidentally killed by gunfire while walking or biking down 8th Ave on their way to work in the morning? Why is it somehow acceptable -- or considered simply an unavoidable "accident" -- when someone is killed by a motor vehicle in this city?

As the Park Slope Neighbors petition suggests -- these kinds of crashes and fatalities are not inevitable. We can redesign these streets and make them function more safely and in a more community-friendly manner.



Jonathan said...

sorry, i'm not convinced that this solution is all it's cracked up to be.

two traffic may slow vehicles down, but it brings it's own and different set of dangers.

first, you create additional turning lanes for every street which crosses the avenue. so, for exmample, if you are crossing 8th avenue at garfield on the south side, you don't have to worry about any cars making a left from garfield. adding that complexity on every school related intersection along 8th avenue can't be a good thing.

second, double parking is just endemic along 8th avnue. 7th avenue is wider so there is sort of a middle-ish lane to go around a double parked car, but you don't have that on 8th avenue. so you will get bottle necks running in both directions everytime someone double parks.

i just think that speed is only one factor in accidents and maybe it can be addressed in other ways. for example, a light at montgomery might slow down people racing to making carroll street. speed bumps on carroll and president to keep people from racing across 8th avenue. these seem like incremental and effective solutions to try first.

Ahad ha Nehagim said...

It should be obvious that the time for a two-lane solution on 8th Avenue has passed. There will be no green, err, yellow line down the middle of 8th Avenue. It may be that a majority of drivers on 8th Avenue currently prefers the option of going both ways. However, demographics being what they are, it won’t be long before an outright majority favors staying with a single lane. At that point, the only democratic way to proceed, as Professor Tony Judt has demonstrated, would be to abandon any concept of two lanes once and for all. Of course, anyone who left Brooklyn because of the oppressive traffic patterns should be allowed to return and drive on 8th Avenue, provided he or she does not attempt to drive in a southerly direction. Nor should the Department of Traffic entertain proposals for the establishment of an alternate system of roads and tunnels by-passing 8th Avenue for use by those who prefer two lanes. Such an arrangement can only lead to an apartheid-like traffic system in derogation of the basic human rights of motorists excluded from it. (Those in favor of the one-lane solution can support it by purchasing a bottle of olive oil produced exclusively by residents of buildings abutting 8th Avenue).

Andy Bachman said...

That's hilarious. Your comments, Ahad, are about as cogent as a donkey whisperer in a Middle Eastern Dust Storm.

Ahad ha Nehagim said...

Baruch ha shem.

Baruch ha mechoniot.

Amanda said...

I have to say I agree with Jonathan. I am not sold on two way traffic increasing the safety of our streets. And as someone who lives on PPW, I think it would make for more traffic noise, the feeling of more traffic and much more honking when people do double park, albeit for a short stint (ie to unload groceries, running into the vet for pet food, etc)

Lauri said...

The Park Slope Civic Council also supports the 2-way pair (8 Ave & PPW)

The following motions were passed by Civic Council Trustees at their meeting April 2.

Motion #1: The Park Slope Civic Council endorses DOT's plan to close permanently to motor vehicles the entrances to Prospect Park at 3rd Street and 16th Street, and to reconfigure Prospect Park West to include a protected, two-way bike lane, between Grand Army Plaza and Bartel-Pritchard Square.

Motion #2: The Park Slope Civic Council endorses the petition by Park Slope Neighbors to make Prospect Park West two-way between Bartel-Pritchard Square and Grand Army Plaza, and 8th Avenue two-way between the Prospect Expressway and Flatbush Avenue, with curbside management added at schools, park entrances and New York Methodist Hospital to facilitate traffic flow.

Eric said...


Thanks for supporting our efforts to calm 8th Avenue (along with Prospect Park West and the intersection at 8th and Union). More than 1,200 people have signed the petition since we launched the campaign.

If folks are interested in adding their names, they can do so at www.parkslopeneighbors.org. There are direct links on the home page to the petition and to a host of information as to why we believe a two-way configuration would make the streets safer.

Statistically, two-way streets slow down traffic, and since speed is the number-one cause of serious injury or death to pedestrians, reducing speed is paramount. A light at Montgomery will make little difference; the lights on 8th Avenue are already timed to slow cars to 20 mph, but cars running behind the changing lights race to keep up, and routinely hit speeds twice that.

And while yes, two-way streets add left-turn movements, those turns are at lower speeds. And two-way streets actually reduce the distances people have to drive, and reduce overall turning movements, because people can get to their destinations more directly. There's more about this on our web site. As far as danger to school kids goes, I know of no stories of kids at PS321 being hit in the past several years; the school is located between two-way 6th and 7th Avenues. Someone please correct me if Im wrong about that.

As for double-parking, that can be dealt with by greater enforcement or the creation of loading zones; however, people tend to oppose anything that would remove a parking space or two. But a bit of compromise to improve safety seems well worth it to us. I don't think there are many people who live on 6th Avenue who would prefer to see it made one-way.

Again, thanks for supporting our campaign. We don't believe that a residential street, on which so many people live (and worship), should have to be a thruway.

Eric McClure
Campaign Coordinator
Park Slope Neighbors

kim said...

Hi Rabbi Bachman! I don't know if you remember me but I was a student at NYU and active at Hillel when you were the director. A coworker just emailed me a link to you blog and asked for a translation of ahad hanahagim's second comment.

I was just in your neighborhood last Sunday to visit Brooklyn General Store on Union Street. Your shul's website lists some really interesting classes, so next time I'm out that way I might have to stop by :)

Aaron said...

Re: the two-way vs. one-way debate, here's an informative article published by Streetsblog during the DOT's attempt to turn 6th and 7th Avenues into one-way pairs:


Here's an excerpt...

Regarding pedestrian safety: "Superficially, it would seem that crossing traffic on a one-way street is preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong," according to a 2004 article in the Journal of the Institute of Engineers.

Hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S. are converting their 1950s-era one-ways back into two-ways to reduce speeding, help local business and keep pedestrians -- especially children -- safer. They are doing so because a growing body of research shows that one-way street grids create a number of signficant problems for pedestrians and the city as a whole:

* One-way street grids force motorists to drive more to get to their destination.

Rather than simply making one turn and driving half a block, on a one-way street grid drivers often must circle an entire block to get to where they want to go. Not only does this additional driving waste time and gasoline and produce more traffic congestion and carbon emissions, "the increase in the number of turning movements and total miles of travel" makes the street more dangerous for pedestrians too. "There are simply more (typically 30-40 percent) vehicle/pedestrian conflicts within a one-way street network than in a comparable two-way system," according to a 1999 study presented to the Federal Transportation Research Board and the 2004 Institute of Engineers study cited above.

* One-way streets tend to encourage faster speeds.

The federal report that Primeggia himself cites says, "vehicle speeds may increase after conversion from two-way to one-way." But Park Slope residents don't need a study to tell them that. The vehicles careening down one-way Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West at 40+ mph are the most "logical presentation" anyone needs.

* One-way streets are more dangerous for pedestrians, especially for children.

A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Public Health notes, "Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with a greater likelihood of crashes involving pedestrians as well as more serious pedestrian injuries." And who gets hurt most on these higher-speed streets? "Children ages 5 to 9 have the highest population-based injury rate in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents. "According to this 2000 study in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, "Children's injury rate was 2.5 times higher on one-way streets than on two-way streets"

Aaron said...

Actually, this blog post does a better job of distilling the one-way vs. two-way studies...