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Car-Free Streets

Williamsburg Walks in the Rain

2:58 PM EDT on August 5, 2008

My friend Jonathan and I loaded up our 70 pounds-worth of pre-schoolers into the "Batmobike" on Sunday and headed over to Williamsburg Walks. My brother Abe joined us as well. Ominous looking clouds were rolling in from the west as we left Park Slope around noon. By the time we hit Fort Greene the rain was coming down in sheets. Much to the delight of the boys, we deployed the Batmobike's rain canopy and waited out the storm under a tree near the corner of Willoughby and Washington.

The storm eased to a drizzle and we got moving again. The Batmobike turned a lot of heads as we rode along the mini van-dominated Orthodox Jewish stretch of Bedford Avenue. (Note to Henry Workcycles: Market opportunity!?) We arrived and parked at N. 7th St. where I predicted it would be a matter of hours before a photo of the bakfiets would be uploaded to Flickr. The number of bikes parked along Bedford Ave. was amazing to me. It almost looked like a scene out of Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Munich. There is no question that Williamsburg could use more street space dedicated to bike parking.

Connie Colvin of Williamsburg Walks gave the boys a complimentary Frisbee and I chatted with Shin-pei Tsay of Transportation Alternatives for a few minutes. The rain was off and on so we found a place to have lunch. By the time we were done the weather had cleared up and people were really starting to come out and make use of the open street.

car_free_beford

Granted, I'm predisposed to enjoying a car-free street but I really liked Williamsburg Walks. I just find it incredibly nice to be able to step outside onto a commercial street in a crowded city and not have to hear the constant sounds of engine revving, brake squealing and horn honking. It's nice to have some elbow room and to be able to stand in one place and talk to friends without shouting over the sound of traffic or clogging up the sidewalk. And it's absolutely great not to have to worry that your kid could take one step in the wrong direction and find himself in the path of a moving SUV.

guys.jpg

I think Williamsburg Walks would be even better if more Bedford Ave. merchants were encouraged to put out tables and chairs and open up their restaurants and shops to the street a bit. But, again, it was pretty rainy on Sunday and I imagine it might not be worth it for a business owner to buy and store outdoor furniture for an event that still only takes place a few times a year.

We didn't see traffic jams on side streets or any of the problems that are often predicted around car-free streets. If anything, the neighborhood streets crossing the car-free stretch of Bedford were noticeably mellow. In my neighborhood, the Park Slope Civic Council and the merchants associations are working on a Park Slope Promenade proposal for 5th and 7th Avenues for the fall. I'll be looking forward to that.

Third photo down is by acsweet on Flickr. The rest of the photos were taken by Aaron Naparstek.

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