Transportation

Cars Vs. Peds: Bill To Bump Ocean Parkway Speed Infuriates Safety Advocates

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Service road, Ocean Parkway and Avenue J, Jan. 17 (Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)

Just when you thought the battle was over, more drama is stirring up the gravel on Ocean Parkway as State lawmakers try to raise the road’s speed limit.

This month, State Senator Simcha Felder sponsored a bill to raise the speed limit on Ocean Parkway, which bisects Brooklyn from Kensington to Coney Island — returning it to its pre-Vision Zero limit of 30mph, infuriating safety advocates and some local pols.

The Senate Bill 5170, sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder (a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans), is currently in the Senate Committee. An assembly version of the bill was sponsored by Sheepshead Bay Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz. [We reached out to Cymbrowitz for a comment and will update as we hear back.]

“It’s simple,” Felder told BKLYNER when we asked about the bill’s goals. “There’s no 6-lane state road that’s less than 30 or 35mph.”

The historic, 6-lane highway, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in 1876, services nearly 45,000 vehicles and thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians every day. With no other alternate route, drivers crawl along the parkway during rush hour and slam on their horns.

The bill blames Vision Zero’s speed reduction — from 30mph to 25mph — for “significantly increasing traffic congestion”, leading drivers to spill over onto surrounding residential streets. “Local residents have complained of the increase in drivers on local roads as they attempt to avoid Ocean Parkway,” the bill states.

Felder’s critique ballooned to the entire Vision Zero program, an initiative from Mayor de Blasio to cut traffic fatalities in half by 2025. “Vision Zero didn’t add up to pedestrian safety,” Felder said, citing the program’s speed cameras as a “money grab for the city.”

He denied that driving 25mph made Ocean Parkway safer, and alluded to Vision Zero’s limit as an arbitrary number.

“Why don’t we set the speed limit to 10mph? Set it at 5 miles an hour. Who decided that 25mph is safe?” he said. “I believe it should go back to 35mph — 30 is a compromise.”

But for Paul Steely White, Executive Director of advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, that extra 5mph is the difference between life and death.

“Speeding is a leading killer on New York City streets, causing more traffic deaths than drunk driving and cell phone use at the wheel combined… According to estimates by AAA, a person is about 74 percent more likely to be killed if they’re struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph as opposed to 25 mph,” White writes, defending the historic lows for traffic fatalities under the City’s Vision Zero initiative.

And one of Felder’s constituents agrees. “I live by Ocean Parkway in Simcha Felder’s district,” writes Daniel Millstone on Facebook. “The slower speeds and other traffic control measures have improved things greatly here.”

City Council Member Brad Lander, whose district includes Park Slope and Kensington, took to social media to express his virulent opposition to the bill, and “Albany’s myopic, faux-populist overreach.”

“It is no longer surprising for the State Legislature to disregard the laws of NYC, or the well-being of New Yorkers. But it’s no less deadly for being predictable,” lander writes.

And, Lander says, the GOP-supported bill could slip in under the radar. “To make matters worse, the Senate version is part of their budget package, so it could move quickly, in the dark of night.”

Commenters on Lander’s Facebook thread are outraged by the potential speed increase on a road they say is already dangerous to cross.

“If I don’t make it in time [crossing Ocean Parkway and Church Ave], I risk getting hit by a car speeding up in anticipation of the expressway,” said a BKLYNER reader.

Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue has long been a danger zone for locals, and the city added an improved crosswalk following the death of a 73-year-old pedestrian in 2013. (According to a NYC DOT report, five people were killed or injured by cars at this intersection between 2007-2011.)

But changes to Ocean Parkway often devolve into political spats, with arguments that pit traffic flow against pedestrian safety. For example, the state’s Ocean Parkway Safety Improvement project — adding curb extensions and a ban on left or right turns at several intersections — faced fierce opposition from southern Brooklyn politicians and neighbors who claimed the ill-conceived project would clog side roads.

And many drivers now feel like they’re bearing the brunt of the state’s project, which was greenlighted in January 2017. According to locals, the turn bans did instigate a spike in traffic delays on the daily commute (and for those of us who live nearby, a worsened rush-hour horn-honking frenzy — yes, we can hear you from blocks away).

But Felder contends that he’s not against safety. “We’re not interested in pedestrians being unsafe, but we’re not interested in NYC ripping people off,” Felder said, adding that “the only way to improve safety is to have cops giving out tickets with points.”

What do you think about the bill to increase Ocean Parkway’s speed limit to 30mph? Have the ‘no left and right turn’ changes affected your commute or quality of life? Do you feel safer on Ocean Parkway since the speed reduction? Let us know in the comments below.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. I live in Senator Felder’s district and even signed one of his petitions a while ago.

    I think he is making a grave error here. Cars are potentially lethal machines that need to be restrained at times. Speeding is dangerous, as well as injurious to the atmosphere of the area.

    When Ocean Parkway was designed around 150 years ago, it was made to be a special type of a thoroughfare, a parkway, which means a road with park like qualities. If cars are speeding dangerously it can become like a racetrack, going in the direction of the Indy 500, rather than the bucolic park-way it was meant to be.

    People need to relax more.

  2. The 30 mph limit should be in effect perhaps with slightly longer crossing times for pedestrians. The band on right turns increase traffic on the side streets and that new light on O.P. southbound at Bay Parkway causes a backup of cars turning Southbound from Avenue I.They should have left things as they were.

  3. Twenty-five mph on Ocezn Parkway is ridiculous. This is a major north-south thoroughfare that is crucial in moving traffic. Raise the speed limit, synchronize the lights, and put in longer pedestrian ‘walk’ signals so people have time to safely cross. But 25 mph and a red light on every corner is stupid.

  4. I am against putting the speed back up to 30 MPH. I live between Avenue W and X and you have to see how the cars speed in this area. I believe there have been several deaths and/or injuries in this area due to speed. There are a lot of elderly and children in this area and we need to protect them.

  5. Lower speed limits and taking away traffic lanes is choking our city to death. We are slowly dying in gridlock and tickets. Stop stealing our time, freedom, safety and prosperity with lower speed limits and less traffic lanes. Zero Vision overconfidence by our friends and neighbors who walk and bike ride is also a threat to safety. Careless walking, cycling and driving is the real threat to safety. Don’t jaywalk or run red lights. Stealing traffic lanes and speed limits are causing more gridlock for bus riders too. Stop the lies and hate for our families and friends who are forced to drive. Stop, look and listen before you cross the road. We should all share the road and not steal it. Join the Queens Public Transit Committee at http://www.qptc.org or call 718-679-5309. We support faster and safer transportation while Transportation Alternatives supports safety only at all cost. We need a reasonable and balanced approach for transportation. We need safety and speed to improve transportation for all commuters. We need to expand our subways in the outer boroughs including the reactivation of the QueensRail, Triboro and Montauk lines. You’ll be sorry if we don’t bring back the speed limit across our city. Three lanes or more arterial roadways should not be 25 mph.

  6. “It’s simple,” Felder told BKLYNER when we asked about the bill’s goals. “There’s no 6-lane state road that’s less than 30 or 35mph.”
    Okay, Mr. Felder: Show me another 6-lane state road that children have to cross to get to school, or that runs through the center of an almost completely residential neighborhood. Instead of increasing the speed limit on Ocean Parkway, a better way to cut down on traffic on side roads would be to promote better public transportation.

  7. I live on the corner of ocean parkway and kings highway and I’ve been studying the traffic at this intersection for a while and these are the conclusions that I have come to. 1. The speeding cameras are uslesss for the most part, I see a lot of cars slowing down right before the speeding camera and zoom off when they are a safe distance away from getting snapped. Meaning that a lot of drivers know where the cameras are and go at speeds of over 40mph and only reduce speed at the sight of a camera. 2. The new ‘no right turn’ from the main road is not being obeyed or inforced enough and I have witnessed 2 accidents at my intersection since the new rules were implemented in January. 3. As Felder said the only way to deal with speeding is to give out tickets with points which means they should have more cop cars sitting on service roads of intersections like church ave, 18th ave, ave j , kings highway.

  8. I think the speed limit should be increased to 30 mph. 25 is too slow, and causes frustration. But I think we should have more speed cameras, and if the speed limit is 30, then the cameras should start flashing at 30, not 35 or 40. I would also like to see more red light cameras and if the technology can be developed, stop sign cameras as well. The idea that the cameras are just money-makers for the City is nonsense. The only people providing the money are lawbreakers. Don’t break the law, doesn’t cost you a cent.

    I also think that vision zero should start placing some of the responsibility for pedestrian safety on pedestrians and bicyclists, e.g. Tickets for jaywalkers, tickets for bicyclists running stop signs and red lights or wearing headphones while riding, all of which can lead to accidents resuling to injuries to all the people sharing the road.

  9. Totally bad idea. 25 is plenty fast. Coney island ave was in gridlock even before Ocean parkway went to 25. Its been a while at 25 and we have adjusted and this is not a big deal anymore. Simcha, none of the other 6 lane roads are at 25 because none of the others have as many people and bicycles trying to cross them! I live here and can say for a fact that crossing is way easier.

  10. I drive on Ocean Parkway very little and am definitely not on the parkway during rush hour. I have a Tom-Tom GPS in my car that dings from 300-500 feet away from any traffic-type camera. So I know well in advance when the “Photo-Enforced” speed limit cameras are coming up. I still stick to the 25 MPH speed limit, but find that people drive right past me going 30+ MPH. Elliot above is right, that drivers know where the cameras are, will slow down in time to pass them at 25 MPH and then speed up after they pass them. Raise it to 30 MPH and people will then begin to drive close to 40 MPH which honestly on a road like it, is very easy to do.

  11. When I first moved to Felder’s district 5 years ago I rode my bike on the Ocean Parkway bike lane with my son a lot, but stopped because there had been way too many close calls with cars turning right (that’s an understatement, more like speeding around the corner) without checking to make sure bikers and/or pedestrians weren’t crossing the street (legally…with the light). I’ll have to take a trip out there soon to see how the lower speed and turn restrictions have impacted biking….but my first thought is that 30 mph MAY be okay if that comes with right turn arrows at all the intersections that allow bikers and pedestrians to cross without having to worry about getting run down by a speeding car turning off of Ocean Ave. Also – longer lights so pedestrians can cross Ocean Ave. safely. Meanwhile – public transit is always an option if you don’t want to get stuck in gridlock.

  12. Restore to 35 and traffic will move smoothly less people will be eager to drive faster. Criminals in suits have their agenda and masses like imbeciles they are think its for their safety.

    BTW NY politicians want to introduce a bill if people don’t vote charge them $10

  13. I just went through the Feb. 2017 NYPD collision reports for Ocean Prkwy. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/traffic_data/bkacc-en-us.pdf) Most are listed in 66 pct info. Here’s a breakdown:
    Ave C & Ocean Pkwy 6 coll; 2 w/ injuries
    Ave I & ” 11 ; 2 w/ inj
    Church Ave & OP 10; 0 inj
    Ave J & OP 10; 4 w/ inj
    Ave L & OP 1; 0 inj
    Ave M & OP 10; 0 inj
    Ave N & OP 8; 0 inj
    Ave O & OP 4; 0 inj
    Ave P & OP 4; 0 inj
    Beverley Rd & OP 12; 2 w/ inj
    Church & Prospect Xprss 4; 2 w/inj
    Cortelyou & OP 4; 4 w/ inj
    Ditmas Ave & OP 4; 0 inj
    in 70th Pct Ave H & OP 8; 1 w/ inj

  14. I live on one of those side streets that supposedly are seeing an increase in traffic… That hasn’t been my experience. Traffic has been growing year by year across Flatbush, but I’ve seen no sudden spike. I’m sometimes annoyed by changes to traffic patterns, but I’ve seen too many near misses around Ocean Parkway to be anything but supportive. I am mortified that the state senator who is supposed to represent the interests of my community would propose such a reckless and shameful piece of legislation.

    Yet another attempt by Senator Felder to undermine the safety and well-being of NYC and its residents in the name of convenience for a vocal minority.

  15. A higher speed limit will cause more gps units to direct traffic to Ocean Parkway and through the center of Brooklyn rather than around it. The adoption rate of gps navigation is only going up. Even if you disregard the obvious safety effects or forcing people to drive slower, you need to take into account the health benefit of less less air pollution from traffic in central brooklyn.

  16. It should definitely be restored to 35, and synchronized the traffic lights so that the drivers don’t have a chance to go faster than 35 because the green wave lights up in slow block-by-block increments. Also, the pedestrian crossing lights should be increased, so they have enough time to cross Ocean parkway.

  17. Obfuscating the issue I think! Congestion isn’t being caused by the speed limit. No one honors it anyway. Can we figure out how to reroute traffic or expand options? The best option, of course, is to make public transportation even better. Get those cars off the road…

  18. Ocean Parkway is a death trap for pedestrians! I know this because I used to cross Ocean Parkway at Ave C every morning during rush hour to take my 5-year-old daughter to her school bus stop, and it was always a harrowing experience (fortunately we’ve now got a bus stop on our side of Ocean Parkway).

    The best way to make it safer for pedestrians to cross Ocean Parkway would be to change the traffic light patterns so that the lights are red in ALL directions when the pedestrian walk signs are illuminated — none of this “you can go, but yield to pedestrians on the crosswalk” nonsense, just straight reds across the board, with enforcement cameras.

    I also do NOT think the 25 mph “Vision Zero” limit should be raised on Ocean Parkway — as both a pedestrian and a driver myself, I know how common it is for traffic to drive 5 mph or so above the posted speed limit, so raising the posted limit to 30mph will result in traffic moving at closer to 40mph whenever possible.

    Yes, as a driver, it’s a pain to be restricted to 25mph in the city — but that’s nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one in a traffic accident.

  19. The move to change Ocean Pkwy’s speed limit to 25 mph was one of the worst safety implements made on the pkwy that I can remember. The pkwy is an essential road for residents to get to and from Manhattan, and other parts of the city. The reduction in the speed limit has only slowed down traffic on a road which no one can park on or cross against the light on. The fatalities which have occurred are usually caused by road rage due to the lack of synchronized lights on the pkwy. In addition to that, many times it accidents are caused because some motorist tend not to slow down when turning, which can make it difficult to stop for crossing pedestrians. That is not an issue that get’s resolved by reducing the speed limit on the pkwy. The attention DOT should be placing their time and resources on is on safety studies and improvement at intersections which are very congested, like Gerritsen Ave. and Ave. U and Brighton Beach Ave. and Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn. These are intersections which could be improved very easily yet DOT has continued to be negligent in doing their job in improving them. Instead they’d rather reduce speed limits across the city in order to increase revenue by issuing speed camera violations.

  20. I live on Ocean Parkway between Beverley and Avenue C. Even with the regulation as it stands now, I refuse to cross Church at Ocean Parkway with my young children. Too dangerous. The drivers around here are the worst, THE WORST, I have ever encountered in my 46 years. You cannot step out of a taxi for five seconds without the driver behind you honking. There is no patience for other drivers or pedestrians. Cars routinely barrel through red lights on Church Avenue; you can’t even rely on the walk signal. Let drivers go five more miles per hour faster and they’ll go fifteen. So no thanks, Felder. Keep the speed limit where it is. Find some issues that actually benefit your constituents.

  21. This may be an impossible nightmarish solution . But just maybe it is not that much of a stretch as you see it in Los Vegas . Design pedestrian bridges that cross the roadway . I agree that this business of speed cameras in certainly a money grab . Kings Highway is another ridiculous 25 mph speed road . I am talking the other side of Flatbush Avenue going east in attempt to reach The Jackie Robinson Parkway …… This route is a savior as it provides an alternative to the BQE or the Belt . These roads are terrible at rush hour due to these ridiculous speed limits and cameras . Bus lanes stealing roadway is another one … there must be an equitable solution . I tell you truly I have soured of living in wonderful Brooklyn since these over jealous unbalanced changes . Brooklyn is one big traffic jam . Look at Gowanas jam … the bottle neck trying to get to the Bqe near the Battery Tunnel . Staten island is a foreign land with the Verrazano toll as you have to pay dearly to see a friend there and bring them to a nice restaurant in Bay Ridge and home again . In ? I think it was 1956 they proposed a Cross Brooklyn Expressway from Atlantic Ave at Furman Street to the Van Wyck . There is just too much traffic passing through Brooklyn and spilling on to our streets . More Tunnels . and Bridges , an highways …. might give the local roadways a break . But it is truly dangerous to cross these larger streets with bullets in the shape of vehicles barreling along . It is all a nightmare …… everything here has become a money grab . Who is at fault if there is no parking and you get a ticket . If there was a municipal parking lot in needed area you would have an alternative . The city taxes you to drive on their roads and yet doesn’t supply the needed parking . Another convenient money grab as the city destroys the quality of life . How many times do you say I could come over but the traffic and the parking is too much to bare . Maybe it just time to get out of town …… perhaps like in the western’s by Sundown of else .

  22. The difference is time to travel the length of Ocean Parkway, 5 miles, between going 25 mph an 30 mph is less then 2 minutes. So stope saying 25 is to slow.

  23. To those who believe the speed limit should be 25 not 30 because many are crossing the street, ask yourself are those people crossing when the cars are going at 25 or 30 mph? the answer is neither. They are or supposed to be crossing when the cars are completely stopped.

    Lowering the speed limit only causes increased congestion and air pollution which will also kill you. But it takes longer.

    So is the rationale to lower the speed limit to make it easier for jaywalkers to cross?

  24. To those who believe the speed limit should be 25 instead of 30 because many people cross the street, ask yourself if they are crossing when the cars are moving at 25 or 30 mph? They answer is neither. They are or should be crossing when the cars are completely stopped.

    Lowering the speed limit only increases traffic congestion and air pollution which is unhealthy. It will also kill you but take longer.

    So do we lower the speed limit to cater to jaywalkers and make it easier for them to cross the street? Of course not. We do what makes sense and have a sensible speed limit that most drivers will abide with not a ridiculously low speed limit that isn’t listened to anyway.

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