Scenes From NYC’s First “Car Free Day”

Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was closed to traffic for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer
Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was car-free for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer

New York City’s first “Car Free Day,” the brainchild of City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, is underway.

On the streets, there are three car-free zones in Manhattan in effect from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: blocks abutting Washington Square Park, Wadsworth Avenue between 173rd and 177th Streets, and Broadway from Union Square to Madison Square.

While the initiative is much more modest than events like Bogota’s, where the annual car-free day removes an estimated 600,000 private vehicles from the streets, or Paris’s, where last year the mayor made a third of the city off-limits to cars for a day, Rodriguez has said he hopes the event can build momentum for his efforts on the council to increase the share of car-free households in NYC.

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez speaks about Car Free Earth Day at a press conference this morning. Photo: David Meyer
City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer

Speaking near Madison Square this morning alongside DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Rodriguez emphasized that cutting traffic is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. “For me this is not about a politician trying to do something that people will like to hear, this is for my daughters,” Rodriguez said. “By reducing cars, by reducing emissions… we can make a major contribution.”

Rodriguez has pulled together a coalition of more than 35 organizations and companies to participate in the initiative, encouraging employees and members to go car-free for the day.

In introducing Rodriguez, Trottenberg promoted the de Blasio’s administration’s policies to reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, and tied those efforts to her work at DOT to increase biking and reclaim street space for pedestrians. “As we’re focused on making the city greener — we’re focused on alternative modes of transportation — we’re also making the city safer,” Trottenberg said, referring to DOT’s Vision Zero program.

Trottenberg lauded Rodriguez for his efforts on the council. “I’m really proud, Mr. Chairman, of our partnership,” she said. “You really have been a force of nature on [Car Free Day].”

Mayor de Blasio himself was absent, however, and there was no new policy announcement to accompany the day’s events — no new budgetary commitment to bus lanes or bike lanes, no expansion of on-street parking reform to cut traffic, no concrete steps that will reduce driving beyond the city’s existing efforts.

  • evo34

    “NYC also has loads of other transit options for disabled people besides driving private automobiles.” Like what? The 10% of subways that are accessible, or the 5% of cabs? Loads..

  • evo34

    Obviously, you’ve never known anyone with a neuro-degenerative disease or an autoimmune disease — there are hundres — that precludes physical exertion. Notice most MS and Parkinsons patients don’t do a ton of biking? Maybe you’ll get a fun one of these diseases and finally realize that there are lots and lots of people who rely on motor vehicles for any chance of mobility whatsoever.

  • evo34

    Awwww. You poor thing. You had a vitamin deficiency and toughed it out like a li’l trooper. Tell that story to the next MD/ALS/MS/Parkinsons patient you see who has trouble standing and walking.

  • Miles Bader

    Obviously, you’ve never known anyone with a neuro-degenerative disease or an autoimmune disease

    Actually I have.

    Obviously there are people for which bicycling isn’t an appropriate mode of transport. The same is true for driving.

    That has no bearing on what’s best for the population at large.

  • Joe R.

    Back to troll again? To reiterate what you said to me 3 months ago, kindly go fuck yourself.

  • Joe R.

    Calling people names, and giving yourself up votes doesn’t bolster your case. It just makes YOU look like the f-ing idiot.

  • Joe R.

    If you can’t walk, ride a bike, or use regular public transit there is Access-A-Ride.

  • evo34

    Ha. Guess what the population at large does? The overwhelming majority drives and does not bike. So if you want all laws to cater to majority, simply outlaw biking. Problem solved.

  • Andrew

    In New York City? No, the overwhelming majority does not, in fact, drive.

    (Why would you, a driver, wish to make your own life more difficult by outlawing other modes and pushing more people into cars?)

  • evo34

    Good n=1 story, bro! How does this help disabled people again?

  • evo34

    What you fail (miserably) to understand is that people can be *driven by* able-bodied people in cars, whereas biking requires the person to be healthy.

  • evo34

    I’m not a driver, just someone who understands the importance of cars and the irrelevance of cycling to the average person.

  • evo34

    Yeah, you are truly an asshole. Drug addiction is a slightly different condition that degenerative paralysis. Apparently, people who fail to cycle due to neuromuscular disorders are just not trying hard enough! Why don’t you volunteer at a MDA clinic and tell them that?

    Never heard of neuromuscular disease? Look it up. It actually strikes the most physically active people disproportionately.

  • evo34

    Congrats. I said *healthy*, not young.

  • Frank Kotter

    Hey, thanks for revisiting this. But in all honesty, I’m not sure what your point is even any more. That anyone supporting cycling is somehow a fascist against each and every person with a disability or just those with advanced stages of MD? If so, your point is that people without the physical capacity to be riding a bike need to be driving and therefore bike infrastructure is bad for them? Really, what IS your point? Please, without all the insults and temper.

    And yes, I do know all about neuromuscular degeneration. I was the last nephew to speak to my uncle before he died of ALS. Yes, he was young and fit. Not sure how his life was effected by the bike lane though.

  • Frank Kotter

    Wait, sorry, I take it back. Don’t reply! I just read your latest posts. You are unable to engage in discourse. Sorry I responded…

  • Vooch

    recumbent bike

    3 wheeled bike

    electric 3 wheeled bike

    velomobile

    electric velomobile

    even electric golf cart

    finally; the percentage of population that can not use a bicycle is about 1/4%.

    and cars create hundreds of thousands of more handicapped people every year.

    so let’s provide motor transport to the 1/4% who are really unable to cycle because they are blind, no legs, or .

  • Vooch

    Broadway should be a pedestrian zone from 14th to 72nd

  • One example is all that is necessary to counter a claim of “never”.

    This intrepid unidexter was pretty unusual. But he indisputably exists.

    The point is that there are many types of disability, and so there are many disabled people who could ride a bike, if better infrastructure existed.

  • evo34

    No one claimed “never.” I said “most…disabled people are never riding a bike” — an inarguable fact.

    But again, great n=1 story.

  • evo34

    Would your uncle have benefitted from govt. dollars going to expanding bike lanes at the expense of vehicles that could have actually transported him?

    My point, quite obviously, is that funds are finite, and they should be used in a way to help the *most* people, not the most vocal and able people.

  • evo34

    99.75% of the pop. can ride a bike?? Source, please.

    Lemme guess: you’re about 22 and have never known anyone with illness.

  • Vooch

    i’m in my early 60’s about 30-40 lbs overweight with thinning hair

  • Vooch

    sounds like someone who shouldn’t be operating a hulking death machine

  • And again: there are many types of disability, and so there are many disabled people who could ride a bike.

    The majority of people who are disabled can in fact ride, even if some with certain specific disabilities cannot.

  • Bike lanes are an example of an expenditure that helps all people. Not only do bike lanes directly benefit bicyclists by providing safer and more comfortable access to streets, but the traffic-calming effect of bike lanes benefits all street users. This includes the most vulnerable users, pedestrians; and it also includes drivers, as traffic calming reduces the frequency and severity of auto collisions.

    Furthermore, the provision of bicycle infrastructure promotes bicycling and induces people to take it up. Any policy that encourages that majority of people who have options other than driving (meaning bicycling, walking, or mass transit) to utilise one of those other options is a policy which helps to reduce the amount of cars on the road, thereby relieving traffic problems for those few people who must drive — a group which includes anyone with a job that requires the hauling of tools or other gear, and which also includes people with certain kinds of disability, such as neuromuscular diseases.

    It is fundamentally dishonest to frame expenditures on bike lanes as being money that is not spent on access for the disabled. That binary simply does not exist. What’s more, you could erect such a straw man as a means to argue against every other public expenditure (though I don’t want to give you any ideas).

    In the end, bike lanes help everyone; and the interest of bicyclists is identical to the general interest.

  • You didn’t have to write that. You chose to write that. You seem to be caught in some bizarre world of your own imagining, arguing against a position that no one is taking.

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New York will create three car-free zones on Earth Day, April 22, as part of an initiative called “Car Free NYC” announced by City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez this morning. The car-free areas will be Broadway from the Flatiron Building to Union Square, the streets surrounding Washington Square Park, and Wadsworth Avenue between […]