Legacy of Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Advocates Continues

A bit more background on the generous neckdown at Smith and Bergen spotlighted earlier today: This pedestrian amenity never would have been built without the long-term organizing for the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project. Street protests and advocacy campaigns stretching back more than a dozen years are bearing fruit now.

And advocates are still on their game, pushing for more. This slideshow comes from Dave "Paco" Abraham, a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Committee who’s had his eye on the corner of Smith and Bergen in particular. "I always thought that intersection needed something," he said. Thousands of commuters pass through the subway entrances on these corners every day. You’ve got students walking to schools on Bergen and customers heading to the restaurant row on Smith. They’re all contending with traffic that tends to accelerate on the excessively wide Bergen as drivers try to make the light at Court Street.

When Abraham heard the city was moving on a big slate of downtown Brooklyn traffic calming measures, he drew up a letter urging the maximum possible sidewalk extension and the addition of bike parking at the northwest corner of the intersection. He met with more than a dozen merchants in the immediate vicinity and asked them to sign on. "I don’t think there
was a place I went to that said no," he says. "It was tremendous." He also garnered support from local civic groups and the two nearest schools — the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School and the Mary McDowell Learning Center.

It’s hard to say precisely what effect Abraham’s campaign had on the final outcome at this intersection. But there’s a lot more sidewalk real estate here than at your typical curb extension, and, at the very least, DOT knew there was widespread local support for something ambitious, thanks to his organizing. DOT is considering the addition of bike parking, a spokesman told Streetsblog earlier this week.

If you’re interested in putting together a similar campaign for a specific intersection, Abraham has a whole tutorial about building momentum for a "bike parking swap" posted on the Livable Streets Community site.

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