Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nobody Stops at the Stop Sign -- A Video

The stop sign at the t-bone entrance is something no driver obeys. Why ? Because it would be dangerous to do so. This fact is a telling symptom of what's wrong with this t-bone. The basic wrong of course is the danger to life and limb. But an additional wrong -- perhaps of equal importance -- is that it promotes contempt for the law.

The video shows a number of drivers who simply ignore this sign. It is entirely typical of what happens at the spot all the time. The only time I have ever seen a driver stop at the sign is when there is a car stopped directly in front of him. In other words, during hours of observation, I have never seen a driver who stops because of the sign.

My lawyer friends tell me that in the common criminal law there was a defense of necessity. As I understand it, a person can invoke this defense if he violates the law because of necessity, i.e. when any other action would produce a greater harm. I cannot claim to know enough law here, so I don't know what the legal position of these drivers would be if they were charged. But it is telling that, as far as I can see, the police make no attempt to enforce this stop sign.

This video was made on Wednesday, September 19, 2007, from a spot in the play ground just behind the stop sign. It is the very first video I have ever made.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

It Can Be Done !

A reader has submitted a sketch on how to provide an unimpeded acceleration ramp going west (south, actually) from the Congress Street entrance to the BQE.

The sketch (see below) proposes moving both the on ramp and the off ramp north, in order to provide the acceleration ramp, making one of the parks smaller and one larger. It provides better sight lines for cars entering the BQE. Some may argue that it reduces the length of the off ramp, but I think that’s less of a safety issue. It moves the intersection north on Columbia Street, but since it’s not a through intersection there is no reason not to, unless queing to Atlantic is a big issue. I think there may actually be a small net gain in park space, since the ramps are a bit shorter in the east-west direction.

If this proposal proves feasible, it would enable motorists to enter the BQE at this spot safely, for the first time. I think that if it can be carried out it will save lives. Mr. Governor, gentlemen and ladies of the DOT -- take a good look at this !

Monday, September 10, 2007

NYSDOT responds

With the kind help of Assemblywoman Joan Millman, I have obtained a response to my BQE concerns from The New York State Department of Transportation:

Traffic engineers for Region 11 of the New York State
Deparment of Transportation ( NYSDOT) reviewed accident data at the subject location and discussed the accident patterns at the location
with one of the police officers in the nearby precinct. Our engineers
recommend that the entrance ramp remain open, because closing the ramp will cause unnecessary hardship for the motorists. The affected
motorists will have to travel several miles thru the local streets with
traffic signals and several turns, some of which may be difficult for

As you may know, there is no acceleration lane for the entering
motorists. Based on the accident data and the police officer's
recollection,the accidents are mainly caused by the entering motorists
misjudging the gaps between mainline vehicles in a down grade. The
entering vehicles stop abruptly after the STOP sign,thereby causing most of the rear end accidents. Also, the horizontal curve on the mainline, just before the entrance ramp, limits the sight distance for both the mainline and ramp motorists.

The following recomendations have been made for this location:
1. Install a Curve Warning sign with Advisory Speed Limit sign before
the mainline curve;
2. Restrict motorists to their lanes before the entrance ramp by
replacing the existing white broken lane markings with solid white
lines; so that the entering vehicle will concentrate on the right lane.
The solid lines will discourage lane changing before the entrance ramp.

( A work order has already been sent out for items 1 and 2).

3. We are also investigating the feasibility of installing ramp meter
at this location. We have done traffic counts at this location and are
currently evaluating the data.

This leaves the following problems:

A. DOT concedes accidents at this spot, and also concedes that there is no acceleration ramp. But DOT has not, as yet, furnished comparative accident and fatality figures that would allow us to evaluate just how much more dangerous this entrance ramp is when compared to others in the neighborhood. I have requested such data, from both DOT and the NYCPD, but have not had a response from either agency. (The complete text of my FOIL request is available through a link shown on this blog.)

B. DOT mentions no plans for long-term improvement. They do not seem to contemplate the construction of an acceleration ramp at any time in the future. Absent this indispensable feature, I maintain, this ramp should be closed to traffic.

C. DOT maintains that closing the ramp might prove inconvenient to motorists. Yes, no doubt about that. I personally avoid the ramp, spending an extra three minutes or so driving to the next entrance. In my view that inconvenience is small compared to the alternative. DOT's persistence in retaining the status quo (with only slight cosmetic changes) will result in fatalities, I believe. And no, it will be no fun to say "I told you so."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Robert Moses Strikes on Sunday

It's Sunday, September 9, 2007, 1 p.m., here again, at the t-bone west-bound entrance to the BQE near Congress Street. Robert Moses, bless his soul, strikes again. This time it appears to be a "mere" fender bender. But, as a morbid person may aptly put it, the spot is a fatality waiting to happen.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Trouble on Labor Day

Is it yet another accident, or did the police just happen to spring into action for some other reason at this very same trouble spot ? Either way, here we are again, at the junction of the BQE and its westward on-ramp near Congress Street, Brooklyn. This picture was taken at 11:05 a.m., Monday, September 3, 2007.