Last year the Department of Transportation implemented a number of changes designed to make Delancey Street and the surrounding streets safer for pedestrians. For the most part, the wider pedestrian “safe zones,” longer signal times and altered traffic patterns were well received. But one part of the plan, which changed the direction of a two-block stretch of Clinton Street and allowed motorists to turn right from Grand Street, is obviously not working so well. Last night, Community Board 3’s transportation committee talked about what can be done to fix the problem.
Right now, traffic backs up for several blocks on Grand during the afternoon rush hour, as cars coming off FDR Drive make their way westward to get on the Williamsburg Bridge. A very long line forms, at least back to Lewis Street, and some drivers attempt to maneuver around the traffic, creating a double turn. A two-way bike lane on the west side of Clinton is sometimes taken over by cars. Pedestrians are caught in the crossfire, as drivers become increasingly aggressive.
Dominic Berg, a community board member who lives a short distance from the troublesome intersection, said he doesn’t believe the situation is necessarily dangerous to pedestrians but it is a significant “quality of life issue” because the crossing can become very chaotic. He also pointed out that there’s no signage informing drivers that they don’t have to turn right on Clinton to reach the bridge; it’s also possible to turn right on Norfolk Street.
Colleen Chattergoon, a DOT representative in attendance last night, said the agency could look at changing the timing of the traffic signals in the area, add informational signs on Grand Street and ask the NYPD to staff the intersection with traffic cops. Some board members asked whether it might be possible to add a second lane of traffic on Clinton (between Grand and Delancey) to accommodate the heavy traffic. This would probably mean moving the bike lane to another street or making it a narrower “shared” lane with automobile traffic. Chatergoon said these steps would be a lot more involved and take more time. In any event, she said, DOT, would take into consideration the impact on Delancey Street and other thoroughfares.
The committee ended up passing a resolution asking the city to examine the intersection, and to consider changes to the bike lane. Chatergoon invited community board members to visit the area with DOT engineers who will be studying the problem areas. The committee is also planning to draft a letter to the NYPD requesting traffic enforcement officers at Clinton and Grand for a few months. There’s a downside to making the request, however. As any New Yorker knows, traffic cops are only concerned with moving cars along — and not with the safety of pedestrians.