Summer Streets: The Wait Is Over

Well, almost over. It’s been two and a half months since we first heard that some sort of Ciclovia-style event was coming to New York. Tomorrow, Summer Streets will finally be upon us. To build up the anticipation just a bit more, we’re re-posting this classic from the Streetfilms archive.

The spectacle of a 6.9-mile car-free route in the middle of Manhattan should make for a banner street photography day. To our New York readers who plan to bring cameras to the event: Upload your shots to Flickr and tag them "streetsblog" — we’ll highlight the best next week. You can also drop us a line at tips@streetsblog.org if you’ve got a Summer Streets story or experience you want to tell us about. Don’t hold back.

Here are a few key points of information from the official Summer Streets website:

  • The route runs from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd Street, mostly along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue.
  • There are three rest stops, each with its own programming running throughout the day. The "arts and culture" rest stop will be at 51st Street and Park. The "health and fitness" rest stop will be at 24th and Park. And the "underground" rest stop will be on Cleveland Place (Lafayette Street) between Spring and Kenmare.
  • If you pop a tube on your bike, basic repair will be available at all three rest stops, and at the Bicycle Habitat shop on Lafayette between Spring and Prince.

Have fun out there Streetsbloggers.

  • That is one of the most expensive bike shops in all of nyc!!

  • nonetheless I wish all the peddle pushers a great morning tomorrow. I half of me feels it will be a great success.

  • Drew

    I had a great time of this today. It felt like a real triumph as a cyclist, and something that could never have happened even a few years ago. Like the first step toward something really new for the city.

  • Bureaucrat

    What a blast!

  • gecko

    History has been made!

  • I didn’t see David Byrne, but I did see Mark Gorton! It was a lot of fun. The Park Avenue Tunnel was closed, but we did go over the Grand Central viaduct and saw the statue of Vanderbilt! Lots of interesting stuff that pedestrians aren’t usually allowed to see. We’ll definitely go again next week.

  • I saw Mark Gorton and Andy Wiley-Schwartz! It had a great feeling; people were really just hanging out and enjoying themselves.

  • Marty

    I had the pleasure of leading a feeder ride in from Astoria. We had around 30 people meet up. It was truly fabulous. My number one sentiment from the day is that there really is no turning back. I was surprised by the turnout and didn’t hear a single car horn the entire time. What a great give-back for those of us who ride in traffic all year round, and a fabulous boost for those recreational cyclists who hit our streets with trepidation. The only comparison I have is when 5th ave was closed during the transit strike. That was glorious as well, but the weather was much better today.

    I hope pedestrians and folks with kids felt welcome and safe. It was crowded, which is a good thing, but its important to acknowledge that the streets are for people on foot and with strollers as well.

    Thanks to everybody reading and writing who supported this by helping out or simply attending. Can’t wait for next week!

  • Spud Spudly

    I walked with my two-year-old son from 72nd Street all the way down to 23rd Street before I pooped out. It was fun except for the bikers zipping around us left and right, especially at the bottom of the ramp leading up to the Grand Central viaduct. It should be bikers to the left and pedestrians to the right, or something like that, because I had to keep my son close to me to make sure he didn’t get run over. But overall I can’t believe they don’t do this every weekend.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My wife and I took the opportunity to ride in from Brooklyn, up to Central Park, around the northern end of it, and back down Park Avenue to the Lower East Side, before getting something to eat and taking the subway home.

    It’s the farthest any of us have ridden in a row, at least since our teens, and was fun, although up to Grand Central it’s the same route I ride to work more or less.

    The one note of concern is the number of city workers, particularly police officers, lining the route. That’s all overtime, and that makes this an expensive, perhaps unaffordable proposition.

    Of course if a street were closed every Saturday it would become an institution, drivers would come to expect it, and you wouldn’t need cops at every intersection, just a few riding up and down the street on bikes.

  • It was fun except for the bikers zipping around us left and right, especially at the bottom of the ramp leading up to the Grand Central viaduct. It should be bikers to the left and pedestrians to the right, or something like that, because I had to keep my son close to me to make sure he didn’t get run over.

    It was definitely not an event where you could let a kid wander around, but there were some times (like near the park Avenue tunnel and on the viaduct) where there was more sidewalk or striped space to the left than to the right, so I would be cautious about making a general rule.

    One thing that struck me was that there were hundreds of bicycles all around us, and nobody came close to hitting us. I also didn’t get any kind of hostility or road rage from anybody, no matter where we were standing. This doesn’t jibe with what some of my neighbors, and some web commenters, say about feeling so scared around bicycles. I really have to wonder if they’re not transferring some of their fear of cars onto people that they feel they can safely attack.

    To walk with a five-year-old around so many vehicles and feel so relaxed was really nice. I want to go back today, but it’s not there anymore!

  • My wife and I enjoyed riding our bikes all they way down to the Brooklyn Bridge. We did have one negative interaction with a pedestrian who was crossing the street:

    She had the green light and my wife & I, were slowing to a stop (from an already slow speed, 5mph) as we approached the crosswalk. There were about 3 other cyclists nearby who were also stopping. Despite the fact that we were yielding to her right of way, she started complaining that “we weren’t stopping.” I spoke up and mentioned how we all did stop for her to cross and then she made some vague general complaint about “bike riders and dog walkers are all inconsiderate, blah, blah, blah.”

    She was really being unreasonable, and I think people like that are just looking for something to complain about.

  • mike

    I had a fantastic time yesterday.. after a while I realized that I was constantly smiling. It was very peaceful and relaxing. I saw no conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians. Events like this show that there are lots of people who want to bike, but for one reason or another, do not. This shows that the demand for safe and convenient bicycling is out there. Now, the City has to delivery more than ever.

  • From the venerable Arun Venugopal:

    SADIK-KHAN: I talked to the mayor about if this is successful, and it appears to be, that down the line we would look at potentially extending the hours, extending the days, and looking at different locations and different boroughs. So, stay tuned.

  • gecko

    What a vista of a beautiful broad New York street with no cars!

    Crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at 6:30 AM to go straight up to 72nd Street and Park; stayed to 1 PM.

    When Sadik-Khan was asked how she’d gotten those Park Avenue upper crusties to agree to cyclovia on their turf, she responded with perhaps the most curmudgeonly remark and look of all times: “I own the streets baby!”

    Everyone looked so good on this one. Absolutely amazing!

  • fdr

    Sadik-Khan actually doesn’t own the streets, she’s more like renting them. For another 500+ days.

  • gecko

    poleeeeeeaz!

  • As a bystander, it looked like a parade of Nerds.

  • mike

    Hoog – I’m not sure which Summer Streets you were at. I saw lots of families and kids and folks just having fun.

  • Well, in my neighborhood the Summer Streets people started using amplified sound at 910 am and kept dodging the rule (“no amplified sound before 10:00 am”) for one-half hour before admitting that “no amplified sound” did not mean it was okay to use amplified sound quietly. Why green people need amplified sound escapes me.

    The whole day seemed like just another case of supporting the interests of the few over the needs of the many.

    In a related matter, if bicyclists are to use NYC streets more fully, I think they should also be trained, licensed, and insured; their vehicles should be registered and inspected for safety; their parking should be regulated; and any violation of the above, or traffic rules, should penalized as rigorously as they are for motorists. Since people use mobile phones while driving bikes or cars, or crossing streets, they should be required to carry personal injury insurance with their phone contracts. Anything short of these measures is not only reckless, but a liability nightmare for pedestrians and motorists as well as bicyclists.

  • In a related matter, if bicyclists are to use NYC streets more fully, I think they should also be trained, licensed, and insured; their vehicles should be registered and inspected for safety; their parking should be regulated; and any violation of the above, or traffic rules, should penalized as rigorously as they are for motorists.

    I don’t know who’s pushing this idea, but I will be so happy when it dies a well-deserved death. You know what? I think that motorists should be trained, licensed and insured, because they sure don’t act like it now.

  • I’m still glowing.

  • I want to comment on another dimension of Summer Streets that no one has yet mentioned: building community and making new friends. It was lovely to ride on Park Avenue and enjoy the grandeur of Manhattan without the noise, pollution, and danger of autombile traffic, but what most touched me was how many people I connected with that morning, both complete strangers and old friends. Indeed, every time I stopped, I met someone new. People were fascinated by my folding bike, and in one case, our conversation led to exchanging numbers and making plans to get together.

  • gecko

    Coming back downtown on 5th Avenue from 51st and Park after Summer Streets had ended required a change of mind.

    It was still a beautiful day and the euphoria remained, but the awareness had to prevail that an accident with any of the cars, trucks, and buses that surrounded me could cause grave injury and was potentially lethal.

    That we had it; that it was a tremendous success: New York Ciclovia elicits a kind of drug-free health-kick be-in 60s-style optimism that will hopefully morph into one of the driving engines of a utopian-seeking future.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “If bicyclists are to use NYC streets more fully, I think they should also be trained, licensed, and insured.”

    Trained, certainly.

    If they started formal training programs for on-street riding in the public schools, the way a whole publicly supported infrastructure was created to encourage driving (I took driver’s ed in high school), then there would be many more people choosing to ride on the streets.

    Licensed maybe.

    This could also encourage more riding, but could also discourage it.

    Insured certainly not.

    It is one hell of a lot harder to kill people or destroy property with a bicycle than it is with a car. We don’t require licenses and insurance for rowboats, strollers, or supermarket granny carts either.

    Motor vehicles require licensing and insurance because they are dangerous.

    “Their vehicles should be registered and inspected for safety.”

    The most unsafe bicycle is extremely unlikely to injure anyone other than the user. When did you last hear about a bicycle pedel sticking and sending the bicycle through a storefront window, killing and injuring multiple pedestrians?

    “Their parking should be regulated.”

    At some time after enough parking on public land (ie. streets) is shifted from motor vehicles to bicycles so there actually is a place to park. I suggest starting by extending the sidewalks within 15 feet of the corner and putting bike racks there, which would also reduce motor vehicle accidents to due improved visibility.

  • gecko

    Not only are cars more dangerous than guns, they are more dangerous than The Terminator if you watched the television series “Sarah Connors” last night when she used an SUV to flatten a terminator series robot (temporarily) who was firing a barage of bullets at her son John Connors.

    Zoom, zoom, zoom!

  • gecko

    But, to be realistic, The Terminator would have won out in the crash if he saw the SUV coming.

  • A stunning success! Here are some of my comments from the photos I took of the event:

    On ordinary Saturday mornings, this swath of public land is reserved for a relatively small number of motorists. On August 9, the city recognized the potential for streets as open public spaces and closed Park Avenue to motor vehicle traffic. Motor vehicles still held exclusive sway on the other 11 avenues (and two shoreline expressways), but Park Avenue was reserved for the people. My guess is that more people used this roadway by foot and bicycle this day than would have by car on a typical Saturday morning. More importantly, they enjoyed it in a novel way that promotes public health and enriches civil culture.

    Without question, this unprecedented 6-mile street closure was a huge success. MAKE IT PERMAMENT!

    One of the most appealing aspects of Summer Streets was the flow and mix of people. It wasn’t congested and overcrowded like a street fair. And there weren’t large groups of people moving through together. It was a nice uncrowded and leisurely mix of pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters. People bunched up at the major cross streets where the traffic signals were in effect, but then spread out again. The conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists are few when the 90%+ of the space usually reserved for cars is available.

    I’d say several thousand cyclists toured the Summer Streets route. Perhaps DoT has estimates? I’d especially like to know whether the number of people using the roadway this Saturday morning was greater than the number of people that motor on this route on a typical Saturday morning. If so, is there any possible justification for not making Summer Streets permanent?

    We didn’t find the official stations very interesting, but after the cars were let back on Park we rode over to West 55th where the Alvin Ailey was giving an interactive dance and drumming performance. The performance was great, but it was held in the middle of a traditional street fair, complete with tube socks and sausage-and-pepper-heros. It was overcrowded and stressful. The ambience (if not the dance) was better over on Park, by far.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Great time – I think the whole event worked as well as could be expected. Good turnout, the weather was fantastic, and gave everyone a vision of what the future could be. I think the people who are upset about too many bikes, inconsiderate pedestrians, etc. have an obvious agenda or prejudice. I saw people sharing the road and being pretty considerate overall.

    Trainging cyclists is a great idea – perhaps that would be a good addition to future Summer Streets events. Building out the bike infrastructure will help ease some road sharing issues, the rest of the suggestions are just rants from bitter drivers (license, insurance, etc.)

  • Nycosmomoplitan

    “the rest of the suggestions are just rants from bitter drivers (license, insurance, etc.)”

    Honestly, I’m trying to assess the liability from all sides. Should a pedestrian struck by a bicyclist with bad brakes be responsible for the emergency room examination? Would the risk of losing one’s insurance or license help to curb bad riding habits (like running lights)?

    As for the relative dangers of various street transportation, it is a matter for actuarial calculation, not subjective speculation. But it is unlikely that bike liability insurance would cost as much as auto insurance.

    btw — In-school bicycle training programs with resources comparable to motor training is a terrific idea!

  • Larry Littlefield

    “As for the relative dangers of various street transportation, it is a matter for actuarial calculation, not subjective speculation. But it is unlikely that bike liability insurance would cost as much as auto insurance.”

    Depends on how you measure it. My view is it would cost vastly more. An auto insurance company might charge $1,200 for a liability policy expecting to pay out $1,100. That leaves $100 for administration and profit.

    For a bicycle, with an expected payout of $5, it would charge $105.

    Some things are not worth insuring.

  • Nycosmomoplitan

    I’m left wondering whether adults who cycle without helmets are more likely to oppose cyclist insurance and whether advocacy for cyclist insurance could help to relax anti-cyclist lobbying from the insurance industry?

  • gecko

    #31 Larry Littlefield, Bicycle insurance might even be redundant for those people that have apartment insurance which comes with considerable property and liability protection — hundreds of thousands of dollars worth — for under $200.

  • Ian Turner

    Gecko,

    I’ve never heard of renter’s insurance that included any kind of liability protection.

  • gecko

    #35 Ian Turner, Check it out. It is true. In case a workmen or someone gets hurt in your apartment. Call AllState.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m left wondering whether adults who cycle without helmets are more likely to oppose cyclist insurance.”

    That has nothing to do with it. Helmets slighly reduce the chance of someone cracking open their own heads.

    Auto insurance doesn’t cover a person’s injuries to themself. It covers injuries to others, or their property, or one’s own vehicle.

    Bicycles are too cheap to be worth insuring separately from homeowner’s insurance, and do too little damage too infrequently to others to be worth insuring for liability.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Nycosmomoplitan – sorry if I was a little defensive on the insurance issue. Honestly, the whole thing seems absolutely ridiculous to me. Bikes are far less dangerous than cars, so scaling the risk appropriately it would hardly seem worth the effort to insure people. And what about folks who couldn’t afford the insurance even at a relatively low cost? Remember, even a .25 cent increase on subway fares are a hardship to some people and a bike is one of the cheapest transportation options available. Would there be police enforcement? Fines? Jail?

  • John

    ideas for the next summer streets this saturday:

    Tug of war, fresbee, badminton, Jousting,
    archery, volleyball, pingpong, mini-golf,

  • Spud Spudly

    You’d have to get rid of the bikes first.

  • Spud,

    John could do all that stuff right off the side streets which are also closed for the most part.

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