A busy Williamsburg open street has been transformed into a bike and pedestrian-friendly bike boulevard as part of a large-scale project by the Department of Transportation.
A stretch of Berry Street between Broadway and North 12th Street now features a two-way bike lane and one-way vehicle traffic, allowing cyclists to easily traverse the neighborhood without dealing with fast-moving car traffic.
The project also includes revamped intersections, new loading zones and traffic flow alterations — the one-way vehicle traffic changes directions several times, to discourage drivers from taking Berry Street unless absolutely necessary.
“Berry Street’s innovative new design as a Bike Boulevard will help protect pedestrians and cyclists, reduce speeding, and provide dedicated loading zones to cut down on dangerous double parking,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, in a statement. “Streets are public space, and designs like this show that we can reimagine the use of public space to benefit all road users.”
The dramatic transformation, built on the success of the Open Streets initiative, aims to prioritize safety for pedestrians and cyclists while connecting to Domino and McCarren parks and the Williamsburg Bridge.
Berry Street was turned into a temporary open street in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, when the Open Streets program was first introduced. Neighbors quickly took to the open street — a DOT survey found that 85% of locals used the street while walking and 77% visited it multiple times per week.
Meanwhile, just 28% of the people surveyed used the open street while driving. When asked about the future of the street, locals largely responded that they would like to see it used for walking, exercise, biking, and social activities. As the DOT continued to discuss the future of the street with Williamsburg neighbors, they formed a plan to close the thoroughfare to through traffic.
According to the DOT, a traffic count data camera placed on Berry and North 6th streets during Open Street operations revealed that about 20% of cyclists were traveling southbound on the corridor.
To accommodate the trend while still allowing for one-way vehicle traffic, the DOT painted in two-way bike markings. Neighborhood loading zones bookend each block to minimize truck traffic on the corridor while still allowing large trucks and vans to make local deliveries, and emergency vehicles are still able to access the full length of the street.
The alterations serve to discourage unnecessary vehicle usage along Berry Street in hopes of reducing traffic volumes and enforcing a five-mile-per-hour speed limit for drivers accessing the corridor.
Every intersection along the route underwent a redesign that included pedestrian curb extensions with planters, bike corrals and granite blocks. The expansions enhance visibility at street corners, which will ensure safer crossings for pedestrians.
“The people of Brooklyn deserve safe spaces when walking or biking on our city streets,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez. “I thank the city for prioritizing these investments in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and I look forward to working with NYC DOT to make streets safer throughout Brooklyn.”
The project is parallel with the transformation of the nearby North 15th St. Open Street into a permanent public plaza, which was completed earlier this year.
Community members celebrated the new project.
“It is fantastic to see infrastructure prioritizing cyclists and pedestrians, especially in a booming neighborhood like Williamsburg,” said Ken Podziba, CEO of Bike New York, in a statement.
In addition to providing a safe cycling route, the goal for the new corridor is to encourage more people to engage with cycling and experience the neighborhood from a different perspective.
“We know from the recently-released DOT data that cycling increases exponentially with the implementation of accessible bike lanes, and this thoughtful and data-backed addition will give north Brooklyn even more opportunity to ride,” said Podziba.