Thank You for the Extra Car-Free Hour, And…


DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan celebrates the extra Car-Free hour in Central Park with members of Upper Green Side and Transportation Alternatives

Last week the Dept. of Transportation extended the car-free time on the West Drive of the Central Park loop one extra hour, from 7am to 8am. While this is far short of the goal of a totally Car-Free Central Park, and DOT’s failure to make similar improvements in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is inexcusable, the additional car-free hour represents a step in the right direction.

Members of Upper Green Side and Transportation Alternatives woke up early to celebrate the new car-free hours and monitor the situation. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan stopped by to join the celebration where we thanked her for the extra hour and lobbied her for a total traffic ban in both Central and Prospect Parks. She complimented us on our positive attitude, saying, "I love how with TA folks it’s always ‘Thank you, and…’"

There were many park users on-hand to celebrate as joggers, cyclists, parents, children and dog owners enjoyed the park uninterrupted by the typical armored column of motor vehicles rumbling down the West Drive. But we did have to turn around a few motorists trying to enter before 8am, telling them they were risking a ticket.

We also kindly asked some motorists that somehow did get into the park to "Slow Down"

A tipster points us to a few good pictures on Flickr from the morning.

In Brooklyn, where over 10,000 Prospect Park have sent postcards to DOT in support of a three-month car-free trial, a coalition of local organizations issued a press release suggesting that "City Hall overlooked several clear and easy options to make Prospect Park safer, healthier and more enjoyable for Brooklynites." These incremental improvements include:

  • Closure of the northbound East Drive during the evening rush hours, when traffic is minimal.
  • Closing Prospect Park’s 3rd Street entrance to cars to eliminate dangerous conflicts between motor vehicles and the many children and parents who use two popular, nearby playgrounds.
  • Expanding the crowded pedestrian and cyclist lanes on the Park Drives by eliminating one of the motor vehicle lanes.
  • d

    Send an email to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan with your support for the measures listed above by using this link:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/maildot.html

    As we head into the end of the summer and as daylight becomes scarce, it will be impossible for many city residents to use the parks after work during car-free hours. The DOT should extend car-free hours in the evening and in the morning with the eventual goal of getting cars out of the parks altogether.

    (I would add enforcing speed limits in the park, or lowering the speed limit, as another goal on the road to car-free parks.)

    There is a lot of momentum out there for car-free parks. A bike- and pedestrian-friendly commissioner is a good thing, but she’ll need pressure from everyday citizens if she’s to overcome the powerful interests that keep the parks open to cars.

  • SPer

    The allocation of space on Prospect Drives during evening “car-unfree” hours is grotesque. The running & biking lanes are full and even crowded, depending on the weather; the car lanes are not. Cars should definitely be restricted to one lane. Well, they shouldn’t be in the park at all, but maybe if they were restricted to one lane and not allowed to speed, drivers would not choose the park drives in the first place.

  • Hilary

    SPer makes a very important point: If drivers are restricted… and not allowed to speed, drivers would not choose the park drives in the first place.” Every time we reconfigure our roads and infrastructure to enable traffic to move faster, with design speeds far beyond posted speed limits, we are inducing demand. Dismantling this mindset will be huge. The DOT’s have successfully carried out a policy of speeding up traffic to reduce congestion. The new message must be “reduce the numbers and reduce the speed” in order to reduce the demand for driving. The good thing is that engineers tend to be utterly competent and rational. Given clear objectives, they will deliver the right solution.

  • Hilary

    I neglected to say in the above post that demand-reduction techniques can and should be applied in neighborhoods and parks throughout the city, not just in Central and Prospect Parks.

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