I live on “The Other Side of McGuinness,” in the quieter outskirts of the neighborhood where Greenpoint sooooort of meets Williamsburg, near McGolrick Park. Although I technically live in Greenpoint, I take the L train to get to work (I know, blasphemy!) and every day I have to cross Meeker Avenue at Kingsland. Usually I’m on my bike, but sometimes I’m on foot.
Either way, getting across Meeker Avenue every day is an ordeal. The way the light is timed does not allow a pedestrian, even at full stride, to get across. So if you’re on foot, you will most likely get stuck in the “median” under the BQE, which is designated as a parking lot…one that cars often come flying out of at full speed. Visibility is poor for cars making left turns, putting pedestrians and cyclists who have the light at risk, and when BQE traffic backs up during peak hours, one is forced to weave between idling cars while trying to cross. Imagine navigating that mess on a bike! I’ve even seen drivers come out of the McDonald’s parking lot and literally drive against traffic (Meeker is kind of like a divided highway with one-way traffic on each side) to reach the nearest intersection to turn left, rather than drive down the road a little and turn around safely.
I attended the recent Vision Zero workshop at Brooklyn College, hoping to get some insight about the program itself and what exactly is being improved in my neighborhood (and to voice some of my concerns about this very pedestrian-unfriendly intersection in person). We already know McGuinness Boulevard is one of several planned “arterial” slow zones. I had also heard there was a plan for a dedicated bike lane on McGuiness and wondered how would that work. But what I really wanted to know is how I could report the unsafe conditions I deal with every day at Meeker and Kingsland.
When I arrived, the Student Center was bright, loud and crowded – a good thing! A large projection at the front of the room cycled through a slideshow of traffic accident statistics. A smattering of tables were set up, where one or two DOT people explained what Vision Zero actually is, and how NYC streets are planned, designed and maintained.
As far as the intersection at Meeker, there was no one from the DOT that could immediately address my concerns, but the DOT people gave us forms to fill out, and at the end of our lectures we were given some stickers to affix to a map of our neighborhoods to highlight problem areas under categories such as visibility, how lights are timed, etc. Although I wasn’t able to get specifics, we were told that city planners will be relying on and studying our feedback in order to figure out what changes needed to be made.
My contribution looked like this:
So how about this bike lane on McGuinness? When I asked if this would actually be happening, I was directed to one of the DOT project managers, who told me that there are no plans for a bike lane on McGuiness right now, and that a bike lane would not currently be possible. The Pulaski Bridge bike lanes, however, ARE happening and there is a proposal to remove a motorist lane and construct a dedicated bike lane in its place – great news for cyclists and pedestrians forced to fight it out in that narrow strip on the Pulaski, currently designated for non-vehicular travel.
One thing is certain – New York City can be doing a lot better. Changes can and need to be made in this city in order to ensure pedestrian safety. Traffic related injuries and deaths are preventable. Vision Zero is designed to help eliminate these injuries and deaths, and to give citizens a voice.
Although what I ultimately ended up doing at the workshop was venting on a form and putting some stickers on a map, I’m happy that there was an actual human being there to chat with. I’m happy that I had the opportunity to sit at a table with like-minded people and learn. I’m happy that there was someone there to tell me whether or not I might soon be able to get to and from Queens more safely on my bike. And I feel like my concerns about this dangerous intersection near my house might finally be listened to.
I hope my voice will be heard…and I hope this works.
Learn more about Vision Zero, how to attend a workshop, and how to report an issue here.