FLATBUSH TRIANGLE

Problems and Proposals Chris Hamby Pedestrian & Bicycle Planning November 7, 2012

vehicular traffic, creates a complex and congested area. There are four intersections with stoplights, and fifteen marked pedestrian crosswalks. The intersection of two different street grids and a diagonally-oriented Flatbush Avenue leave small sections of space that are often too small for building upon. On this site, there are two such sections: a small triangle on the southwest side of Flatbush, bounded by Carlton, Park, and Flatbush, and a slightly larger triangle across the street bounded by Park, 7th, and Flatbush. In addition to the heavy vehicular traffic, the site also contains two well-used bus stops, for the B67, B69, and B41 lines, and the B/Q 7th Ave subway station. Due to their small size, both triangles largely serve as protective pedestrian islands. The smaller Carlton triangle is paved mostly with cobblestones and contains one fairly large tree. The larger triangle has four mature trees, also fairly large, as well as a planted triangle of mulched earth, raised slightly above sidewalk level. Both triangles host a mix of cobblestone paving and larger concrete pavers.

The Site
The study area is represented by two patches of small public space cut from the intersection of three streets. Flatbush Avenue, a major cross-borough boulevard running from southern Brooklyn to the Manhattan Bridge, divides the residential neighborhoods of Park Slope and Prospect Heights here with six lanes of traffic. At the site, Flatbush Avenue intersects Park Place and Carlton Avenue, residential streets with a moderate degree of through traffic, and 7th Avenue, one of the major commercial streets in Park Slope. The multiple intersections, coupled with high pedestrian and

Current Use
Due to the presence of two popular bus stops and two subway entrances, the area typically has a high frequency of pedestrian traffic. In particular, rush hour times (7-10am and 4-7pm) are busy, as commuters walk from the neighborhood or transfer transportation modes to travel to and from work. The businesses immediately surrounding the site reflect this as well, most are commuter-oriented, with shoe and watch repair shops, fast food establishments, a liquor store, bodegas, pharmacies, and

grocery stores within a short walk of the transit stops. Sidewalks in the area are generally wide, and while some crowding occurs at the peak travel times, there is usually enough space to carry current foot traffic. Corners in particular are wide, and provide enough space for informal conversations that do not significantly interrupt movement. Because of the frequency of street crossings, pedestrians traversing this area often spend a significant amount of time waiting for lights, but there is generally enough space, and waiting times are short enough, that crowding does not occur at intersections. Despite there being no bike lanes, with the exception of Carlton, the streets have a relatively high number of cyclists, most using Flatbush Avenue or 7th Avenue. Despite Carlton’s bike lane, it is currently not in frequent use. Cyclists appear to be mostly “hardcore” riders - younger men with cycling gear and confidence riding in streets with heavy traffic. At the same time, cyclists of all ages and genders were observed riding the area. Many people were running errands or making a transit connection, emphasizing the density of transit and commercial uses in the vicinity. Unfortunately vehicular traffic is heavy, so the streets are often backed up with cars and trucks waiting for lights, or often simply waiting for the cars ahead to move. Pedestrians and cyclists often must weave their way through automobiles stuck in crosswalks and intersections while they have a signal.

Current issues
Flatbush Avenue dominates the area, with its six lanes and frequently heavy automobile traffic. A surface street in a medium density, mostly residential neighborhood, Flatbush Avenue presents a strong boundary between the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Park Slope. During pedestrian observations, it appeared that people avoided crossing the street if possible - since the 7th Ave station has entrances on both sides of the street, commuters had little incentive to cross. While both triangles provide some pedestrian respite from traffic and ease crossings, the Carlton triangle is too small to of-

fer space for many pedestrians waiting to cross, and does in fact become crowded during peak travel times, which creates a feeling of danger as cars coming from across Flatbush often speed to make the light. While the larger triangle has more sidewalk space, its cobblestone pavers impede walking and offer less pedestrian space than it could. Traffic and pedestrians also mix poorly on Park between 7th and Flatbush, where cars are often either trapped in a narrow stretch between two red lights, or dangerously speed through to make both green lights. 7th Avenue, which ends at Flatbush, also sends cars turning right or left on green, going through two crosswalks that also have a signal. Pedestrians at this intersection often find themselves negotiating with vehicular traffic as they cross Flatbush. In addition to issues of crossing busy streets, the pedestrian environment currently does not offer many amenities - due to subways beneath the street, there are few trees excepting those on the triangles, so the street is typically exposed to sun, wind, rain, and snow. There are also almost no places to sit, with the exception of the B67 and B69 bus stop along 7th Ave. While this bus stop does have a shelter, mornings and evenings see many commuters so few people actually grab a seat, and pedestrians often rush across the street, at crossings or not, in order to catch a bus at this stop.

Recommendations
Narrow Flatbush - Flatbush Avenue is a crucial throughway for vehicular traffic, and any changes to traffic patterns should be handled with care. One potential solution to speeding traffic and exposed pedestrians could be permanent street side parking, as opposed to the off-peak hour parking in place today. This would create a buffer between the sidewalk and the street. The downside, however, may be traffic slowed to a standstill during highest traffic hours. As this solution wouldn’t require any capital investment or even paint on the ground, experimentation could be performed to test its effect on traffic. Close one lane of 7th - The multiple intersections of Park, 7th, and Flatbush should be simplified it at all possible. One possibility is the closure of the eastbound lane of 7th Ave between Park and Flatbush. This would allow continued bus service down 7th Ave, while removing some traffic from a confusing and dangerous intersection for pedestrians. It would also provide more space for pedestrians and add room for seating, creating a true plaza for the triangle. As there is no obvious choice for stewardship of the new plaza, more permanent immovable seating, such as fixed benches and combination bench/planter/bollards may be needed. Close Carlton - The tiny section of Carlton between Park and Flatbush is underused by both vehicular and bicycle traffic, and

adds a layer of confusion to a busy pedestrian intersection. Joining the Carlton triangle to the block could provide additional space for people, including a space for bike parking (to encourage intermodal transportation as well as use of the Carlton bike lane) and seating. Moveable seating and tables could be implemented at this site. Several restaurants are near the plaza, including a Dominican restaurant, an upscale New American restaurant, and an ice cream shop. These businesses would benefit from increased presence of pedestrians, and could be potential stewards of the plaza. Liberate the sidewalk - The current cobblestone pavers in the Flatbush triangles unnecessarily impede pedestrians on already limited walking area. Replacing the cobbles with smoother permeable pavers should be a straightforward way to increase space for walking and standing without dramatically changing the street layout. Seating where possible - This area is currently just used as a hub - people generally are there to go through it, not to stop. However, many nearby residents and passers-by, especially the elderly, new parents and nannies, and blue-collar workers, do linger longer and would most likely appreciate a place to stop and rest in their traveling. In particular, the bus stop on Flatbush, the stretch of blank wall along 7th Avenue, and the stretch of wall near the eastern entrance to the subway have observed people standing and waiting, either on break from work, waiting for a bus, or waiting to meet someone. They all also have enough space for bench installation. Park scramble - The short stretch of Park Place between 7th and Flatbush is often a dangerous confusion of cars stuck between lights and pedestrians that often do not observe marked

crosswalks. In order to make this a safer crossing, one potential solution is to mark the whole stretch as a pedestrian crossing. Cars would wait for the light on 7th Ave (where they would have to make a left if the closure recommendation were followed) or behind the other light on Park Place. This would make crossing simpler and easier for pedestrians, and would keep cars out during a walk signal.

Conclusion
This intersection represents a challenging environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. There is no single solution for simplifying a complex and dangerous confluence

of several busy streets and major transit stops. With smaller interventions, however, gradual action may be undertaken to make this area safer and more pleasant for people on foot and on bicycle. These triangles may not be destined for destination status Flatbush Avenue may simply be too congested for top tier public places. They will, however, be destined for high pedestrian traffic, and will continue to be home to businesses and organizations which cater to the many passers-by and residents of this area. Steps may be, and should be, taken to improve the experience for the many people who live and work nearby, and who, whether or not they enjoy themselves, must use the space daily.

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