Sunday, September 29, 2013


A potentially life-saving first step has been taken at McDonald and Caton and at McDonald and Fort Hamilton Parkway to make crossing those wide, busy streets safer.

Thousands of adults and children are put in harm's way on a daily basis as they venture across the two intersections. Adults who attended P.S. 130, P.S. 230, and Immaculate Heart of Mary School over the years say crossing has been dangerous for decades.

In late August, Assemblymember Jim Brennan called a meeting so that he, the NYPD, the Department of Transportation, and local residents could figure out a course of action. Participants shared information about the ongoing problems and suggested possible solutions.

Mr. Brennan requested on behalf of Troy Martin that NYPD traffic agents be assigned for a few hours in the mornings and afternoons to protect children on their way to and from school. (Residents say that a crossing guard was stationed at McDonald and Caton years ago.) 

The NYPD responded positively and quickly. Only eight days after the meeting, Mr. Brennan announced that agents would direct traffic at the two intersections  from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on days that school is in session.

Now, more steps need to be taken to make pedestrians of all ages and abilities, bicyclists, and motorists safer all day, every day.

Just about everyone at the meeting who lives or works nearby brought up the  problems that trucks cause. McDonald and Caton avenues are heavily-used truck routes, Caton being the local route and Church the through route. Trucks traveling in either direction on McDonald are required to turn onto either Caton or Church and vice-versa. 

One problem is speeding. When speeding truck drivers have to suddenly come to a halt because a light has turned amber or red or because an adult, a child, an animal, or a vehicle suddenly appears in front of them, it takes longer to stop.

And when drivers turn, they sometimes don't have room for their trucks to make a wide enough right-hand turn from westbound Caton onto northbound McDonald. Their trucks are so close to the curb that some of the wheels go up onto the sidewalk, where pedestrians stand.

Often, the long trucks start to make a left-hand turn from southbound McDonald onto eastbound Caton, but they aren't able to complete it before the light turns red. That blocks pedestrian access to the crosswalk. The trucks can't move until the traffic light at E. 2nd turns green and vehicles start moving. Or until a vehicle "blocking the box" moves. Pedestrians must then choose between two dangerous options: walk in traffic on the inner side or the outer side of the crosswalk.

The Mobil station causes additional problems. The station has five driveways: two on Caton, one on McDonald, and two on Fort Hamilton Parkway. When they reopened the station several years ago after a fire, they promised to paint directional arrows on the driveways. They didn't. Cars, SUVs, taxis, ambulances, and police cars zoom in and out. A pedestrian may be walking across a driveway as one car rushes into the station and another one rushes out. And they do rush.

In addition, on occasion, a driver on Fort Hamilton who is waiting for the red light at McDonald to turn green gets impatient and speeds into a driveway, charges through the station, cuts across the center line on McDonald, and turns left to drive south on McDonald. Drivers might not do that if each driveway is marked as either an entrance or an exit.

Among the solutions that could help are leading pedestrian intervals, slow zones, speed humps, lane narrowing, curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges.

The intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway has a "leading pedestrian interval." It allows pedestrians to start crossing a street before the vehicles going in the same or opposite direction get a green light. The countdown was recently extended from eight seconds to ten after the death of a pedestrian in June. 

"Slow zones" near the three schools would reduce the driving speed from thirty miles per hour to twenty. That speed is more likely to save lives. But slow zones are only for "small, self-contained areas that consist primarily of local streets."

A "speed hump" is a gradual rise in the road that's designed to slow down vehicles to between fifteen and twenty miles per hour. They're three to four inches high and up to twenty feet long. But they can't be used on local or through truck routes.

Narrowing the lanes of traffic decreases speeding and aggressive driving. Curb extensions reduce the distance that has to be crossed. Pedestrian refuges allow people to cross a street in stages; if you see that you aren't going to get all the way across while the light is still green, you can stand on the refuge, making yourself more visible.


Community Board 7's Transportation Committee will hold a public meeting this Thursday, October 3rd, at 7:30 p.m. Tell your concerns and suggestions to the Department of Transportation. Let's show the DOT that the community is interested enough in this safety issue to attend a meeting.

International Baptist Church
312 Coney Island Avenue, off Park Circle
entrance on Caton Place