DOT Reveals a Flatbush Ave Pedestrian Safety Plan By Atlantic and Fourth

DOT's proposal would remove double-right turns off Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT
DOT’s plan calls for pedestrian islands, curb extensions, and fewer turn lanes off Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT

Last night DOT presented its initial concept for pedestrian safety improvements near the convergence of Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues in Brooklyn [PDF].

The intersection is located at the center of Brooklyn’s largest transit hub, where the Long Island Railroad meets eight subway lines and four MTA bus routes. The Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays Center are short walks away. It’s also overrun by motor vehicles, with three wide, two-way arterial roads — all truck routes — making for one the city’s most hellacious walking environments.

Pedestrians must contend with long, angled crossings and lots of turning drivers. Since 2008, four pedestrians and one cyclist have been killed in the project area, which extends along Flatbush from Lafayette Avenue to Atlantic. Between 2010 and 2014, 57 pedestrians and 21 cyclists were injured, and 51 percent of the pedestrian injuries happened while the victim was crossing with the signal, according to DOT.

At a meeting in January about public space improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between the three big roads, attendees told DOT and Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner that safer pedestrian conditions had to be the first priority, or else no one would use the space.

Pedestrians crossing the Flatbush-Atlantic intersection must contend with some of Brooklyn's heaviest motor vehicle traffic. Photo: Google Maps
Pedestrians crossing the Flatbush-Atlantic intersection must contend with long, angled crosswalks and heavy motor vehicle traffic. Photo: Google Maps

Last night, DOT showed plans for five median pedestrian islands and several curb extensions to shorten crossing distances around Flatbush and Atlantic. The agency also proposes reducing the number of right turn lanes off Atlantic onto Flatbush from two to one. That would reduce risk for pedestrians crossing Flatbush, who would also get a head start with a leading pedestrian interval.

At the other end of the project area, the two short blocks where Schermerhorn Street and Third Avenue abut Flatbush would be converted to pedestrian plazas. The Third Avenue block is already car-free and the site of a Citi Bike station. Converting it to a car-free plaza cast in concrete was endorsed by Brooklyn Community Board 2’s transportation committee last month.

The plan also calls for a new signalized crossing on Flatbush by State Street and a crosswalk on the southern leg of the intersection with Pacific Street.

At the intersection of Hanson Place and Ashland Place, outside the entrance to the Long Island Railroad, DOT is considering a raised crosswalk to give pedestrians more priority and slow motorists. The agency has not determined what materials the crosswalk would be made from.

DOT is proposing to expand pedestrian space and simplify vehicular movements around Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic and Lafayette. Image: DOT
DOT is proposing to expand pedestrian space and simplify vehicular movements around Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic and Lafayette. Image: DOT

After DOT’s presentation, attendees said they’d also like to see a pedestrian-only crossing phase at the intersection of Fourth and Flatbush and more direct, shorter crossings, as opposed to the long, oblique crossings common throughout the project area.

Bahij Chancey, a leader of Transportation Alternatives’ volunteer campaign for a safer Atlantic Avenue and Times Plaza, said he was “very happy” to see DOT working to address safety concerns. “I think it’s really exciting, I think they’re definitely in the right direction,” he said. “If anything, I would like to see them to go further in certain places… and keep extending pedestrian space.”

When Chancey expressed concern that the plan does not do enough to improve the local bike network, DOT’s Rich Carmona said the plan reserves enough space on the block of Fourth Avenue alongside Times Plaza for a bike connection to Ashland Place to be installed in the future.

At the Schermerhorn/Lafayette intersection, however, the proposed design appears to make a contraflow bike connection from Ashland to Third Avenue less feasible going forward, unless DOT becomes comfortable narrowing eastbound car traffic to one lane.

DOT does not have a timeline for implementation. Some aspects of the plan may have to go through the Department of Design and Construction, which is notoriously slow, and require funding outside of DOT’s budget. DOT’s Sean Quinn said the simpler, lower-cost components of the plan would likely be presented to CB 2 for implementation in 2017.