By Bronwyn Breitner
Bronwyn Breitner is a 19-year resident of North Brooklyn and a founding member of Make McGuinness Safe. She is also an architect, a local business owner, and a mother of two PS110 students.
Neighbors, those of us who advocate for a safe McGuinness Boulevard want you to know that our advocacy has never been simply about a bike lane. We advocate for safety — for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. We advocate for service — for a road that serves all local residents and businesses. We advocate for what DOT labels the “Plan B” design which is centered around converting the boulevard to a two-lane street, making McGuinness slow and safe. And while Plan B does include a bike lane, it must not be confused with the dysfunctional, conflict-ridden road design we’re seeing installed now.
McGuinness is unsafe due to the highway-like, passing-lane design of the street. On average there is a crash every other day on McGuinness and an injury once a week — the status quo is simply unacceptable. Many of the vehicles on the road — over 30% according to the DOT — are using it to connect from one highway to another, and their driving reflects this through high speeds and the need to “beat the light.” This is what injures and kills our neighbors, because vehicle speed at the time of impact determines whether a person will live or die. A person hit by a car traveling at 35 miles per hour is five times more likely to die than a person hit by a car traveling at 20 miles per hour. Removing a travel lane, also known as a “road diet”, is the cornerstone of the Make McGuinness Safe advocacy because it eliminates passing lanes, and the culture of speed, through design.
“Plan A”, the compromise plan now installed north of Calyer, does not remove travel lanes or slow the speed of vehicles on McGuinness. The exact thing that has been injuring and killing our neighbors for 70 years, that is responsible for 14 deaths since 1995, and that neighbors have been organizing against since the day the blvd was built, is left entirely unaddressed in this plan. So while the bike lane theoretically provides an asset to our cycling community, Plan A misses the mark for safety and for service in nearly every other way. Here’s why:
Pedestrian safety is not addressed
Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. A key safety benefit of Plan B is safer intersections, with shorter crosswalks and better visibility between cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Plan A does not allow for this. Instead, it creates confusion and unnecessary conflict between everyone on the road. Conflict is what causes crashes, injuries, and death.
We lost parking
Plan B preserves parking on the entire length of McGuinness. The parked cars serve to protect the bike lane, while the single travel lane serves local drivers. Because Plan A prioritizes moving vehicles throughout the day and maintains four travel lanes, our neighbors need to move their parked cars by 7 a.m. every weekday. Plan B represents a simple and equitable use of the road. Plan A is confusing and only benefits cut-thru traffic.
There are no loading zones
Our community was forced into this poor compromise because of the purported concerns of local businesses using the truck route (actually, DOT’s recent data showed that local businesses don’t even use McGuinness). Plan B includes loading zones on every block for cars and trucks to pull over to make deliveries and pickups. Because there are still two travel lanes in Plan A in each direction, there’s no place for loading zones. The result? Delivery trucks are standing in the moving lane or the bike lane and creating chaos on the road. Plan A is in fact the plan that does not serve our local businesses!
The cut-through traffic remains
Our neighborhood suffers from poor air quality, ranking 5th out of the 51 city council districts for air pollution. Implementing Plan B will deter many cars from using our local road as a shortcut between highways, according to experts at DOT. Fewer cars on McGuinness means lower vehicle emissions and improved air quality. Plan A has zero impact on minimizing cut-through traffic and offers no improvement to our air quality and quality of life.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, with millions of dollars on the line, to build a safer, greener, cleaner, quieter McGuinness Boulevard. The best choice for the design is easy and clear, even more so now that we are suffering the consequences of a watered-down compromise plan.
You know who we are. You’ve seen us at the farmer’s markets for over two and a half years. We are your neighbors. We are local parents. We are grandparents. We are also the people who need to cross this highway every day, and who have to tell our children to wait long after the walk signal on McGuinness before we actually cross. Some of us have lived here for decades and some just for a few years. We own. We rent. We drive. We cycle. Some of us are Polish and some are not. Whether we were born in Greenpoint, our children were born in Greenpoint or we were born somewhere else — who cares? We all live here, together, and we are advocating for your safety and for the safety of all of Greenpoint.
And the truth is that many of us didn’t believe a road diet would work at first. Until we researched and saw precedents. Until we listened to experts and data and saw that it does work and that it will work. We realized that we can take back our neighborhood for the people who live here and the businesses that thrive here. A safe and functional McGuinness is possible. We almost had it, and we still can.
Greenpoint, we are here for you all in good faith. While we understand that not everyone will agree on a plan, we also know that we would never have gotten as far as we have without the thousands and thousands of you who have signed our petition supporting a safe, local street on McGuinness Boulevard. If you want to connect, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Op-eds are submitted by community members and do not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of Greenpointers staff. Email email@example.com for a chance to publish your opinion.