Victory for McGuinness Slow Zone

Bureaucratic Victory! © Vision Zero

For a while now, we’ve been talking about the danger zone of speeding vehicles that is McGuinness Blvd, where some truly tragic incidents have happened over the last year, most notably the death of 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler, who was crossing the street in December when she was fatally hit by two vehicles.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2010, a 28-year-old was the victim of a hit-and-run and later taken off life support after days of being unresponsive due to serious brain injuries.  In 2009, a 33-year-old British woman was struck and killed by a flatbed truck where Nassau meets McGuiness. And the list goes on.

A study from Transportation Alternatives found that the boulevard is one of the most dangerous in NYC, citing that 66% of drivers speed on that wide stretch of road between the Pulaski Bridge and the BQE (only 1.1 miles in length). It doesn’t help that the street is also a major throughway for trucks. In 2010, Transportation Alternatives volunteers observed a whole host of violations on Nassau and McGuinness within only 1 hour of watch time, including drivers running red lights 150 times, talking on cell phones 89 times, and failing to yield to pedestrians 114 times.

Despite protests from activist groups like Right of Way and a neighborhood petition, it seemed like progress would forever be stuck in bureaucratic quick sand.

But finally our wishes have been granted, and McGuinness has become a top priority in Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate (yes, actually 100% eliminate) traffic deaths in NYC. And we could not be happier.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Joe Lentol announced  that McGuinness will become the city’s third “Arterial Slow Zone,” reducing its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph, re-timing traffic lights and increasing NYPD enforcement. The new speed limit will start on 5/12.

“North Brooklyn needs a safer, slower McGuinness, where no matter who you are — a pedestrian, bicyclist or motorist — you can know you are safe using it,” said State Senator, Daniel Squadron. Council Member Stephen Levin and Dept of Transportation Commissioner, Dolly Trottenberg, were also instrumental in passing the reform. Back in February, Levin introduced a resolution calling on the NY State Legislature to lower speed limits to 20 mph, but progress is progress and we’re giving you, Stephen L. (yes, you), a pat on the back for a job well done.

It might seem like a small change, but apparently lowering the speed limit by even 5 mph can be the difference between life and death. A study conducted by the United Kingdom Transportation Department found that a pedestrian has a 45% chance of dying if struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 miles per hour, but when the vehicle is traveling at 20 mph, there is only a 5% chance that the impact will be fatal.

A bike lane will also be added to McGuinness to keep cyclists safe on their journey between Brooklyn and Queens (commence mean comments, blaming cyclists for everything). When all is said and done, 25 other danger areas across the city will receive the royal slowing treatment. Combined, these major “arteries” have been the cause of approximately 60% of pedestrian fatalities in the city.

We really hope this works.

For more information, consider attending a Brooklyn Vision Zero “Public Workshop” on 4/29 at Brooklyn College.