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Park Slope: One Way Is The Wrong Way

Most advocates believe that two-way streets function better for pedestrians, cyclists, commerce, and livable streets. In fact all across the country, hundreds of cities are changing one-way streets back to two-way.

Newspaper Park SlopeBut in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the NYC Department of Transportation - without any community input or stated reason - has developed a plan to turn two-way 6th & 7th Avenues into one-way corridors for traffic like 8th Avenue. In this StreetFilm, advocates from each of the NYC Streets Renaissance partners show just how much 8th Avenue differs in its street geometry and car speeds and how it would impact neighborhood life on 6th and 7th Avenues.


[intro music]

Aaron Naparstek: [00:04] Look how fast these guys are going. This is… I mean it’s unbelievable. This is a residential street. This is one of the most beautiful residential blocks in all of New York City, and you’ve basically got, you know, vehicles treating it like a highway. Look how fast this guy’s going. That’s what people do on this street and basically DOT wants to turn 6th Avenue into a street just like this.


[music]

Aaron Naparstek: [00:30] The Department of Transportation announced that it has a plan to transform three Avenues that run through Park Slope, Brooklyn. The plan involves narrowing 4th Avenue, which is a big major six lane thoroughfare. It involves turning 6th and 7th Avenues into one-way streets, similar to 8th Avenue here. We actually don’t know many details of the plan because the plan was essentially developed in secret.


[music]

Graham Beck: [01:06] 8th Avenue behind me is a one-way street, and as you can tell, the cars move incredibly fast. We’re going to do some speed gunning to see just how fast they move. 28. 32. 35. 29. 39. 39 miles an hour. 40 miles an hour. Oh, 44.


[pause]

Graham Beck: [01:38] 18. 19. 14. 10. 20. 21. 18. We got a cyclist. 12. 21. 15. 18. 20. I mean this batch of cars is moving about half the speed of the cars on 8th Avenue. Well on 8th Avenue we were getting speeds in the mid 20’s, 30’s, even the low 40’s. That one-way street really encourage vehicles to travel faster and it was even a little scary standing out there with the speed gun. On 7th Avenue our high speed was 25 miles an hour.


Aaron Naparstek: [02:16] One-way streets like 8th Avenue here, they just aren’t… they just aren’t as friendly to neighbourhood life, you know they’re not… they’re not as conducive to neighbourhood life. You’ve got hundreds of cities and towns all across the US right now that are taking their old 1950’s era one-way multilane highways and they’re turning them back into two-way streets, because two-way streets people generally feel are more conducive to neighbourhood life.


Andy Wiley-Schwartz: [02:41] When you look at people who are using a street like this, there are people pushing strollers, there are people walking very slowly, there are older people and younger people walking down 7th Avenue, a commercial street like this. And they’re very comfortable walking down the street because the traffic is moving more slowly, because the traffic is going two-way and sort of inching its way down the street. They’re behaving all in the same way, they’re here to be here. They’re not here to move through here. Generally one-way streets are thought to be less favourable for the merchants and for business environment because you just have less choice. You have less choice of direction to go in, it’s harder to circulate around to get to a place where you want to go, the street is engineered for cars to move quickly through, so they have less of an ability to kind of scan the environment to find out what’s open, what’s closed.


Aaron Naparstek: [03:25] This to me is not a neighbourhood street. It’s loud, you can hear.


[pause]

Aaron Naparstek: [03:36] We’re not even exactly sure what problem the traffic engineers are trying to solve, cos if they had asked the community, the community would have told them that, you know, one-way 8th Avenue here is actually one of the biggest problems in the neighbourhood. Parks Slope Civic Council did a big transportation forum last year and that’s what people told them. They said they didn’t like 8th Avenue, they didn’t like the way that traffic moved so fast here. One of the things that the DOT is going to point to is that there are fewer pedestrian injuries and fatalities on 8th Avenue than there are on 7th. You know maybe it just means that this is a less pleasant place to walk, a place where people don’t want to walk with their kids.


[music]

Speaker: [04:19] We just had a little boy, a four year old killed on 3rd Avenue and Baltic Street, run over in the crosswalk with the light giving him the right-of-way, and DOT was supposed to finish doing traffic calming improvements on 3rd Avenue by the end of fiscal year 2006, Commissioner Iris Weinshall said it herself. Well it’s 2007 and not only is the work not done, but it hasn’t even been started. There are a lot of other pedestrian safety issues in the neighbourhood that people really want the city to address. And the city isn’t doing it and they’re coming in here and they’re saying that this one-way street thing is all being done for pedestrian safety. Well, you know, we don’t buy it. It’s not believable. It’s not credible.

[music]

http://transcriptdivas.ca/transcription-canada/

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Park Sloper

    One would think that after viewing this video, the DOT should hang their heads in shame. Thank you for making everything so apparent.

  • George Motz

    Great film. Unfortunately there's no mention of the number of high-speed accidents that have occured on 8th ave and Prospect Park West. Last summer I witnessed two separate vehicles out of control on both avenues that jumped sidewalks and plowed into buildings. You should get that speed gun out on PSW where I'm sure the speed are above 50mph.

  • 1 Way HATER

    I was at the meeting tonight just because your video pissed me off so much. Keep these things coming so we can finally make the DOT do the right thing.

    Sign me,
    One Way Hater

  • Phyllis Wrynn

    A great job! What really needs to happen now is making the direct connection with the disastrous Atlantic Yards megadevelopment proposal. This very local issue, when seen in the broader context of powers shoving projects down our throats from without, and not giving residents a chance to have input about decisions that affect their neighborhoods, could encourage a much larger number of community residents to be natural allies in the fight against RATner.

    How can we do this most effectively?
    How can we help them to see the connection and begin to be a much more powerful force against the "three men in a room" decision that will destroy our incredibly special neighborhoods as we know them?

    My husband feels that Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights (and although not quite as PRECISELY relevant to the project, but certainly by extension, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, the Heights, etc.) should be a UNESCO site because this collection of great 19th and early 20th century beautifully built homes and factories is so unusual to have survived with the integrity it has, up to now.

  • Dan

    Convincing arguement. I'm from Atlanta where traffic and walking is a nightmare. Good luck with your fight.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/trorb/ Clarence

    George (#3):

    Actually we had Aaron talking about the speeds and numbers of accidents of late on 8th Avenue, but for the sake of keeping the video as short as possible (most people don't watch more than 5 minutes) we left them out...for now. If the powers that be do not make the right decision there are lots of plans to go forward with far more in-depth studies and more videos.

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  • http://www.camworld.com Cameron Barrett

    I live on 18th Street near 6th Ave. Changing 6th and 7th Aves into one-way streets would be a disaster. Not only are there a large number of schools here there are also a lot of young families with moms and strollers walking around, numerous little parks and loads of pedestrian-friendly shops.

    Changing 6th and 7th Aves into one-way streets would encourage the drivers of cars to go even faster in their never-ending quest to shave 10 seconds off their commute. Already we have too much truck traffic on 20th Street (heading to McDonald Ave or 4th Ave) and lots of traffic using 19th Street as a shortcut to Prospect Expressway because the 17th Street on-ramp is too congested between 4th and 5th Aves. Speaking of that they REALLY REALLY REALLY need to put a crosswalk light at that left on-ramp on 17th Street. Pedestrians have right of way when crossing over the on-ramp but you wouldn't know it by how many people I have see almost get hit. Just the otehr morning I saw a guy screaming at a delivery van that wasn't paying attention to pedestrians that almost hit him. The ironic part is there was a police car two cars back that DID NOTHING.

    Lastly, they need to make U-turns on 5th Ave illegal. Too many times I have seen these lazy-ass drivers do a U-turn (or 3-point turn) in the street utilizing the bike lanes, blocking traffic in both directions -- just so they can save themselves the minute it would take them to go down to 4th Ave or up to 6th Ave and go around. A few weeks ago some idiot in a delivery van actually used the CROSSWALK on 5th Ave in front of Eagle Provisions to do a U-Turn, despite the fact I was IN THE CROSSWALK at the time. Completely illegal yet he did not care one bit that he almost hit me.

    Bottom line is there are too many cars in Park Slope (and South Slope) and too many people who like to drive fast and aggressively. Allowing them to drive faster by making the Aves one-way is a recipe for disaster.

  • Contrarian

    Sorry - I live near 8th Ave and while I agree that the speeding is a problem, the intersections there are certainly safer to cross than those on two-way 6th & 7th Aves. Brooklyn drivers are a menace - anyone in Park Slope knows you take your life in your hands trying to cross 7th Ave at 9th Street - and going one way would fix that by giving the CARS much less freedom of movement, something that should be applauded. Its a seperate issue from speed, which can be regulated by light timing. The real motvie behind the two-way veto is opposition to Atlantic Yards, and the loud, hypocritical, car-owning minority who would be inconvenienced in their sacred search for a parking spot. For bikers and pedestrians, as the statistics demonstrate, it would result in safer streets.

  • BBDB

    Contrarian,

    The One Way plan was a bad idea for numerous reasons having nothing to do with speeding or Atlantic Yards. Read this:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/04/06/primeggias-one-way-safety-claims-are-based-on-1970s-studies/

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