Why Participatory Budgeting is awesome

As I packed up my things after a work session at Gorilla Coffee yesterday, I noticed a guy setting his bike inside the door. It didn’t make sense, since there is a bike corral right outside.

Of course, I neglected to consider it might be full. (I offered the other customer my spot, but he said he was heading out soon anyway.)

Gorilla Coffee bike corral full

Eight bikes, one corral.

Five hours later, I was advocating for corrals like this one in dozens of spots all over northwest Brooklyn.

I was in a library basement with about 40 other members of the community, throwing out ideas for Brad Lander‘s Participatory Budgeting program, which is entering its third year. This coming April, constituents in Council Member Lander’s district will allocate $1 million in discretionary funds to candidate projects. Similar initiatives are taking place in eight other districts across the city.

(N.B. If you have a proposal you’d like to see on the ballot, the deadline to submit it is November 3.)

Last night’s event was geared toward transportation. After receiving an introduction from Budgeting staff, we divided ourselves into four groups to brainstorm: subways and buses, traffic-calming, bicycles, and miscellaneous.

I chose bicycles, and suggested that one of the projects be setting up these corrals at target intersections around the district. More and more people are riding bikes, and they need places to park them. Better cycling infrastructure is correlated with better business. The corrals take up one parking spot, yet can fit eight bikes; they also provide “daylight” to pedestrians at the corner, who no longer have to look around a car to see if danger is approaching.

Others in the group piled on with great suggestions: put them outside of subway stations! At parks! Schools! Libraries! It was the finest form of democracy.

This proposal was one of a few we shared with the larger group. (Others included more safe, navigable bike lanes along the avenues in Park Slope, and new bike lanes in Windsor Terrace.) Over the next two months or so, committed volunteers will flesh these vague ideas into finely-tuned candidates for the people’s money. I’m excited to see what happens.

McDonald Avenue in Windsor Terrace was cited as a potential bike route. (From my visit in April 2012)

McDonald Avenue in Windsor Terrace was cited as a potential bike route. (From my visit in April 2012)

One of the questions on the survey we filled out after was something like: I feel I can influence the way my elected officials think. (Yes/No)

Even after the Republican shutdown, this was an easy “Yes”. And we won’t even need to write letters or tweet with funny hashtags; all we’ll need to do is show up somewhere in April and cast a ballot.

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One Response to Why Participatory Budgeting is awesome

  1. Great post! And thank you so much for advocating for more bike parking!

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