Not so bright: Slope’s six-signal traffic light creates chaos at intersection, locals claim

Seeing green: A traffic signal with seperate lights for cars and bikes is confusing motorists, who routinely run red lights at the intersection.
Brooklyn Paper
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Red means stop, green means what?

A six-light traffic signal outside Prospect Park that shines separate “go” lights for bicycles and cars is too confusing for drivers, who routinely run their red light and put cyclists in harm’s way, according to a Park Sloper who lives nearby.

“When the light turns green for bikes to go, the cars see green and they start,” said Jane Brody, who lives near the signal at the intersection of Third Street and Prospect Park West. “That can make it hazardous for both bikes and pedestrians.”

The traffic signal features green, yellow, and red lights for cyclists in the form of a silhouetted bike — infrastructure known as a “bicycle-signal head” — hanging next to three lights in the form of one red and two yellow arrows for cars turning right from Third Street onto the one-way Prospect Park West.

And the green light for cyclists — who can either turn onto Prospect Park West or pedal across it into the park itself — shines for eight seconds while the red arrow shines for cars, leading less-aware drivers to illegally blow through their light and turn while bike riders have the right-of-way, Brody complained to Department of Transportation officials at a town hall last month.

The Brooklyn Paper visited the intersection on June 5, and indeed spotted no less than four motorists running their red light there shortly after 10 am.

This newspaper’s investigation also found that drivers are further befuddled when their signal’s solid red arrow changes to a flashing yellow one — instructing them to yield — while the cyclists’ light is green and yellow, as evidenced by one driver who stopped his white hatchback in the middle of the intersection for about 16 seconds as the yellow arrow flashed.

The city installed the six-light signal last year, according to a Transportation Department spokeswoman, who could not say what prompted its arrival — but other bicycle-signal heads began rolling out across the city years ago under former Mayor Bloomberg, according to reports.

The bicycle-signal head’s red, yellow, and green lights make it easier to mistake for a standard traffic signal than other street-safety infrastructure such as the city’s so-called leading-pedestrian intervals, which are “walk” signs that allow pedestrians and cyclists to start crossing some borough intersections roughly 10 seconds before cars moving in the same direction.

And city transit leaders know the perplexing Park Slope signal baffles drivers, according to the rep, who said they are looking into ways to bring order to the juncture where traffic-related incidents injured 10 people since 2010, and a driver traveling on Prospect Park West near Third Street hit and killed 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein in 2013, roughly four years before the six-light signal arrived.

“We are aware of motorist confusion and are looking into solutions to provide better clarity,” said Alana Morales.

One local said making a simple color change to one of the signal’s lights for cars could do the trick.

“The two yellow arrows are confusing,” Park Sloper Melva Prince. “We should have a green arrow.”

And another said the bicycle-signal head should be scrapped altogether, because cyclists and drivers should be forced to share a single signal the old-fashioned way.

“There should be one light for everyone, or else it becomes too confusing,” said Diana Dunn, a 12-year resident of Park Slope. “Bikers should not get preferential treatment. It should be the same rules for everybody.”

But Cohen Eckstein’s mother said the intersection’s bicycle-signal head has the potential to save lives if the city puts in the effort to show motorists how to follow it.

“Is it a little confusing, yeah, but if we educated people, it would save lives,” said Amy Cohen, who joined the group Families for Safe Streets after her son’s death. “These kind of things work, maybe they can be improved, but the solution is not to take out things that have proven to work.” — with Saul Marquez

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:43 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Gary from Park Slope says:
A simple solution - move the bike signal down to the level of the Walk/Don't Walk pedestrian signal.
June 11, 2018, 8:50 am
Elizabeth F from Westchester says:
This looks like a "split phase" signal, which works like so:
a) Bikes green, cars green forward but red right-turn arrow. This prevents bikes going forward from getting "right hooked".
b) Bikes red, cars green forward and green right-turn arrow. This allows cars to turn right.
c) Bikes and cars red, allowing for cross traffic.

There are split phase signals all over Manhattan, and they are considered safer than than the alternative "mixing zones," where several bikers have lost their lives.

In Manhattan split-phase intersections, the car signal is mounted high, while the bike signal is on a pole near the pedestrian signal. The mistake in this case seems to be that both are mounted next to each other, high in the intersection.
June 11, 2018, 9:03 am
Tyler from pps says:
I'm all for separate signaling for bicycles -- especially in situations like this where bicycles have the option of going straight and not turning with the cars.

HOWEVER -- This is NOT where you place a bicycle signal lamp. They go on the light post on the corner.

What they have installed here is just a dimly lit green light for all traffic. I am pretty sure this sort of set up is not in the manual.
June 11, 2018, 9:15 am
Resident from Brooklyn says:
Agree with the above. Especially from a distance, there's nothing to signal to drivers that this light is not for them. Needs to be fixed.

What should also happen is that the city should remove the parking the right side of 3rd Street to create a wide, safe curbside bike lane for all the people riding up to PPW and Prospect Park.
June 11, 2018, 10:10 am
The Green Lantern from Park Slope says:
Too dumb to follow the signal, too dumb to be allowed to drive a car. Problem solved!
June 11, 2018, 10:16 am
James from Park Slope says:
Agree with Gary.
June 11, 2018, 10:41 am
CH from brooklyn says:
I think that everyone should follow ALL the same rules of the road. Be it in a car or on a Bike. No offense to Bike riders, it is great you are being healthy and avoiding your carbon footprint BUT, OBEY THE RULES OF THE ROAD. PERIOD.
June 11, 2018, 11:24 am
CH from Brookyn says:
If you run a red light, you should get a ticket. Go above the speed limit when riding in the streets, get a ticket, (Yes they do make speedometers for bikes) God forbid you get hurt because you disregarded the rules because you are on 2 wheels. you should be held accountable just as much as the person in the car who hit you.
June 11, 2018, 11:27 am
boof from brooklyn says:
Red light tickets should be proportional by weight.

Drivers of cars get the current $200 ticket. Bikes and their riders, which are at least 20 times lighter, get a $10 ticket. Any state reps reading this? Make it so.
June 11, 2018, 11:58 am
David from Greenpoint says:
bikers if pass a red light, you should get a ticket.
bikers if you driving the wrong way, you should get a ticket.
bikers if your are passing a red flashers of school buses, you should get a ticket,
bikers if you are driving on sidewalks, you should get a ticket.
June 11, 2018, 3:04 pm
Vision Zero from Zero Vision says:
This is a great driving test question. If this is too confusing for a driver, revoke their driving privileges post haste. There are far too many idiots on the road as it is.
June 11, 2018, 3:40 pm
Lynn from Fort Greene says:
I agree with so many other commenters - do not put the bicycle light at the same height and placement of the car traffic light. It's non-standard and confusing to those unfamiliar with the set-up.
Just as pedestrian lights are placed so that no one could confuse them with lights for cars, place the bicycle light in a seperate and clear spot so their is no confusion as to what the signals mean.
The intention is to make traffic run more smoothly, not to confuse people on the road (bikes and cars alike!).
June 12, 2018, 3:16 am
CH from Brooklyn says:
boof from Brooklyn- I disagree with the weight thing. A $10 ticket would be nothing to a biker running a light. Would NOT make someone stop and think that it is wrong. If we are ALL supposed to "SHARE" the Road- all the responsibilities AND consequences should be the same across the board. People riding on 2 wheels just because it is better for the environment (which is a great thing I have no problem with that) SHOULD NOT be given special treatment in the eyes of the LAW
June 12, 2018, 9:19 am
AMH says:
I wouldn't conclude that drivers are "confused". I witness drivers running red lights constantly, where there is absolutely no room for confusion.
June 12, 2018, 9:28 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Even if those special traffic signals for bicycles were placed lower, those bike zealots will still ignore them and ride through them when they are red. According to a places such as Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives, it's not cool for cyclists to follow traffic laws and doing so makes them part of the very system they are claiming to go up against. I do agree that cyclists should pay the same fines as if they were motor vehicles especially if they claim that they want the same rights to the roads as they do. Why should they get special treatment or a slap on the wrist for flouting the traffic laws when motorists don't? When they flout such traffic laws, they are placing themselves into harm's way and that's a found fact. For anyone claims that they always say they see motorists that flout the laws, I can say the same about cyclists. The one difference is that I do call out my kind when they break the laws, but I never your kind doing the same, but rather ignoring them or even rushing to their defense. Honestly, I do find any special infrastructure for bicycles to be a waste of space and money especially when those that commute by bicycle are still a less than one percent not to mention the very infrastructure they demand for hardly ever gets used much throughout the year except when weather permitting, though even on those days they hardly seem to be used as well. BTW, a flash mob from TA doesn't count as it being used more especially when that's mainly for a publicity stunt.
June 12, 2018, 6:42 pm
Terry from Park Slope says:
Tal, the reason why it's ludicrous to apply the law equally to cyclists and drivers is because drivers kill tens of thousands of people every year whereas cyclists don't. And the reason for that is because drivers have command of a 3000lb+ vehicle which can crush someone to death at 3mph, whereras cyclists are in command of a relatively tiny piece of machinery which is smaller and lighter than them and which does a tiny fraction of the damage of a car during a collision. Motor vehicles have been engineered with the express purpose of protecting drivers from the consequences of their reckless driving - bicycles offer no protection whatsoever during a collision. For this reason, cyclists are far less disposed to take unreasonable risks. Motorists, on the other hand, drive with the knowledge that cage reinforcement, seatbelts and airbags will protect them in the event of a collision. If they collide with a pedestrian or cyclist they usually get away without so much as a scratch.

Thus motorists, being significantly more of a risk to human life than anyone else on the road, should be the primary focus of our limited resources for traffic enforcement.
June 13, 2018, 11:16 pm
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
Terry from Park Slope: Don't bother with Tal Barzillai from Pleasantville, NY. Longtime readers know he is a bot. I wouldn't be surprised if he is put there by this "newspaper" to gin up its clicks.

Clue: Every Tal screed contains some variation of the following: "...those bike zealots will still ignore them and ride through them when they are red....places such as Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives [claim] it's not cool for cyclists to follow traffic laws and doing so makes them part of the very system they are claiming to go up against."

I'm surprised that this time there were no comparisons between bicyclists and Hezbollah.
June 13, 2018, 11:42 pm
Vision Zero from Zero Vision says:
@ Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace,
He is a real person but also a mouthbreather. Plus his eyes are very close together and sunken. I think he actually has some kind of deficiency, not trying to be mean. Here, take a look for yourself:
June 14, 2018, 11:05 am
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Terry from slope “ludicrous to apply the law equally” sums up the biker babies
June 14, 2018, 4:40 pm
Vision Zero from Zero Vision says:
⬆⬆⬆Says the whining crybaby⬆⬆⬆
June 14, 2018, 5:18 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Whatever negative remarks you bike zealots say about me and other motorists, I can easily say the same about your kind as well. I could never understand why you guys believe that your kind should always have special treatment to the laws, while motorists must follow every letter of them hence the Animal Farms reference. Just to let Terry know, saying that cars cause more harm when they impact something or someone doesn't make bicycles less dangerous nor does it give them a reason to flout the laws. Just hearing that almost reminds me have how the anti-Israel crowd tries to downplay the actions done by Hamas just by saying that the IDF kills more than they and making them the real terrorist organization while ignoring the causes of the events. The truth is that when cyclists and even pedestrians flout the traffic laws, they are placing themselves into harm's way even if it's them who are going to get hit. From time to time, I have asked for any of you bike zealots to point out when has Paul Steely White, who is the head of Transportation Alternatives, ever called out scofflaw cyclists in the claim that he doesn't have an anti-car bias. Until somebody can prove otherwise, my claim that he has an anti-car bias holds true by default. Overall, I am just seeing that group and White for what they really are. If they were really about promoting alternatives for transportation, then they should talk about the subways and buses in improving and expanding their service, which a lot more use, rather than promote a mode such as bicycles that much less are using not to mention many of the bike lanes they promote have been found to be unused most of the time and resulting in increase travel times for all other vehicles as well as parking issues for others. Then again, that's probably how they can keep up the fight for congestion pricing even though they will most likely lose again due to high opposition throughout the city in the claim that it's both a regressive tax and a punishment to those with little to no viable alternatives to getting around without driving. Overall, if you want those who ride bicycles to be treated the same way as all other vehicles do, then they should be subject to the same laws rather than act like victims to them along with facing the same punishment as all others would get if they broke the laws.
June 14, 2018, 6:49 pm

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