Car-Free Saturdays Will Open Path For Peds and Bikes From City Hall to 72nd


With several cities in addition to New York exploring the idea of car-free events modeled after Bogotá’s Ciclovía, Streetfilms produced this "express version" of their popular full-length video.

Last month we reported that DOT was planning a major car-free event this summer in the mold of Bogotá, Colombia’s weekly Ciclovía. Details emerged on Friday in the Downtown Express:

On three Saturday mornings in August, the Department of
Transportation will ban cars from nearly 5 miles of city streets to
make way for cyclists, joggers and walkers. Starting at the beginning
of Centre St. in Lower Manhattan, then moving north onto Lafayette St.,
Fourth Ave. and Park Ave., people will be able to travel all the way to
72nd St. and then to Central Park by walking down the middle of a
street.

The streets will be closed to cars on August 9, 16 and
23 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. On 15 major east-west streets, like Canal,
14th St. and 42nd St., cars will be allowed to cross the car-free zone.

While much of the coverage in the Express and New York Sun focused on objections to "closing" or "shutting down" routes for cars, the virtues of opening streets for pedestrians and cyclists were not lost on everyone:

The chairman of the City Council’s committee on transportation, John
Liu, said a project like this has been discussed for several years, and
would reinforce a trend, rather than posing an inconvenience.

"This is not likely to create a huge ripple in the fabric of
Manhattan," he said. "It may even begin to wean people off dependence
on personal automobiles."

Later today, DOT and Mayor Bloomberg are holding an official announcement and going public with the name and branding of the event. Cyclist celebs Lance Armstrong and David Byrne will be on-hand, and Streetsblog will have more as the story develops.

  • Make it until 6-7 pm and we are talking. Why not Broadway??? Other than putting it were traffic volume it already on the lighter side.

  • I agree with Shishi that I’d rather see the ciclovia continue all day, and indeed, into the evening–but then I love riding my bike in the evenings and at night. In any case, this is a huge and important step and I welcome it. Hopefully, it will be wildly successful and encourage further car-free events with longer hours and on a regular basis!

  • I’d be interested in seeing this in other boroughs. Anyone know if there are plans afoot for that?

  • ddartley

    It is wonderful that this is going to include 4th Ave. up to Park Ave alongside Union Square. As someone who shops there almost every other day, I can bet that this will alleviate serious, dangerous, and annoying pedestrian overcrowding at the intersection of 14th St. and 4th Ave.

    Of course there’s always room and time for more of this! I look forward to City residents realizing that there should be more and more of these changes in the future.

  • Spud Spudly

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned anywhere else, and sorry for going off topic, but was that ddartley’s letter I saw in the Times this weekend?

  • simple

    nice gesture
    but ultimately a huge c*cktease

  • Gwin

    Interesting idea, but does this mean that cyclists are just going to have to weave through packs of clueless pedestrians…?

  • Paulie

    Ciclovia is awesome, everyone comes outside and hangs out. This plan pales in comparison. What should be done is a whole area of manhattan, say everything east of this route planned be frozen from driving. Otherwise, you will have this mass of cars stuck all around the peripheral trying to move about.

    We’ll see what happens. There should also be a restriction on cars in manhattan in general for that day- commercial vehicles only .

  • evan

    I agree with the comment that Broadway would be a better choice. Aside from the fact that it is a continuous and central route, there is research that shows a car free Broadway would actually increase the flow of traffic throughout Manhattan.

  • I hate to be an ingrate, but why only until 1pm? On Saturdays when I don’t have someplace important to be, I’m not always AWAKE by 1pm, let alone awake and out of my apartment and in Manhattan.

  • Tom Rorb

    Damn folks, this is more than I expected in my lifetime. Let this experiment get tried out and go from there in future years.

    Baby steps (although this is a HUGE baby step)

  • Spud Spudly

    Oh, those darned pedestrians — so clueless yet so numerous as well.

    To repeat what I said in Today’s Headlines about this, I hope they bring this to Columbus Avenue soon, I hope they make it a full day and not just 7AM to 1PM, and when they do I look forward to a nice BBQ in the street. I want to put a spray cap on the hydrant in front of my house and pass out hot dogs (Hebrew National, of course).

  • Spud, yeah, that was me. I’m not thrilled with how the letter was significantly edited–so much that it actually ends with an illogical conclusion I don’t even quite agree with. It’s no one’s fault but mine for giving my implied permission when the Times contacted me about publishing it, but I’d like to mention that I didn’t write it with publication in mind. I sent it only to the Op-Ed’s author; not “letters-at-nytimes.com” or anyone else at the paper. It got forwarded there, I guess. Nothing wrong with that, but I should have asked to hear what the final edit would sound like before approving. Any of you impulsive letter-writers, take heed.

    I’m glad that our bad speed limit got more attention, but I wish I had withheld the personal stuff. I didn’t mean to air it out like that.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Heard about this on Wednesday from some former colleges that now work for the NYCDoT Alternate Modes Office. Sounds real cool. I’ll be sure to make it in to the city for this.

    Also, isn’t Bike New York already kinda’ like a big car-free bike event? So why is this such a big deal?

  • Andy B from Jersey

    PS – What letter was that David?

  • Yeah, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. is way too early, especially since some of us need our beauty sleep, and my local Greenmarket is happening right at that time too. I’m grateful for the gesture, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to benefit from it.

  • Tom Rorb

    Andy B – you gotta pay alot of $$$ to do Bike NY. This is free. Big difference.

  • Roger

    The whole idea appears to be for the city to be able to have its cake and eat it, too. That is, have some car-free streets (or bike lanes, or a bike-share program, or what have you) while invconveniencing as few drivers as possible, if any. Hence the meager 7am to 1pm window. The city doesn’t seem to have yet gotten the memo from Paris, Copenhagen, Bogota, etc., that you can’t make any real progress in terms of modal shift without inconveniencing a few drivers. I mean, come on, they can’t even bring themselves to make the roads in our parks car-free — roads that never, ever were supposed to handle traffic in the first place.

  • Spud Spudly

    This letter:

    To the Editor:

    Thank you for mentioning the problem with using 30 miles per hour as the default speed limit in a city teeming with pedestrians, especially one where pedestrians far outnumber car occupants.

    My sister and her friend were killed in 1991 by a speeding driver while crossing a city street, a result of a glaring and yet easily solved safety flaw.
    David Dartley
    Stuyvesant Town

    I don’t know, sounds OK to me but I didn’t see the original. I’m guessing that maybe you meant a different safety flaw than the speed limit? I’ve written some letters for publication in the Times and yes, you should ask them to send you the edited version before they print it. But don’t fret, you got a good point across even if it wasn’t exactly the one you may have meant.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Tom, valid point. Still I was referring more to the issue of closing streets to traffic.

    Roger, from my friends on the inside of NYCDoT, the city government now “gets it” (at least within the Bloomberg Administration). Its convincing the car driving masses that will still take time. Maybe $200/barrel oil will start them thinking. $140/barrel oil sure hasn’t!

  • Thanks, Spud.

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