The Case for a Car-Free Halloween

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So, I hope you’ll forgive me for posting these Halloween pictures halfway through November. I took them on Fifth Avenue at the south end of Park Slope, and I’ve been meaning to share them since election week. 

Usually on Halloween I’m cooped up in an office until dark, but since it fell on a Saturday this year, I got to head out and enjoy the trick-or-treating with everyone else. And I mean everyone. The kids, the parents, the grandparents. The merchants who give away candy. The people who just happen to be out on the street. Halloween has got to be the
most active day of the year for New York City streetlife (even more than marathon day, I’d say).

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Halloween is really the ultimate livable streets holiday. Consider: We plan streets to accommodate peak rush-hour traffic, and we pave parking lots
big enough for the oceans of cars that arrive for Black Friday shopping. If we treated infrastructure for walking the same way, we’d plan to accommodate the pedestrian volumes on
Halloween. Our sidewalks would be much bigger.

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Because so many people are out walking, Halloween is also a day of horrific traffic violence. Nationally, the incidence of child pedestrian fatalities doubles on this day. In New York, DOT feels compelled to send out safety tips for parents and drivers. On Fifth Avenue, large platoons of trick-or-treaters would gather on corners, spilling into the street while waiting for the walk sign.

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Sometimes, they’d get cut off even after the traffic signal gave them the all clear.

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I don’t think bright costumes and safety awareness campaigns for drivers really do the trick here. How much safer and more enjoyable would Halloween be if kids and families could go trick-or-treating without worrying about getting hit by a car?

Halloween falls on a Sunday next year, so here’s an idea. Why not combine this holiday with Summer Streets and make trick-or-treating car-free on neighborhood commercial streets all over New York? Logistically, I’m sure this would be quite the commitment. But DOT already seems intent on expanding car-free events. Hitching Summer Streets to the Halloween wagon could pay off big-time.

  • Bravo for a brilliant idea, beautifully articulated:

    We plan streets to accommodate peak rush-hour traffic, and we pave parking lots big enough for the oceans of cars that arrive for Black Friday shopping. If we treated infrastructure for walking the same way, we’d plan to accommodate the pedestrian volumes on Halloween.

    Exactly!

  • Josh

    They could call it “Spooky Streets”.

  • sam

    I live on the UWS, and one of the best blocks is 69th street, because they just shut down the entire street from CPW to Broadway. It’s a ridiculous block party, with haunted houses, house design competitions, and (at least this year) an entire star wars performance art piece involving people rappelling off the side of a building. Cars can still drive down Columbus, but because there are a ton of police at the intersection, it stays pretty calm.

  • I totally agree, 1 day a year is plenty of notice(and is not asking too much) for people to work around not being able to drive in the city.

    It should be treated as a snow storm warning where only official vehicles are allowed to be on the streets.

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