DOT Expands Car-Free Time in Central Park by One Hour


The Dept. of Transportation is announcing that it will add one additional hour of car-free time to Central Park’s West Drive during morning rush hour starting Monday, August 6. No incremental improvements have been announced for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Here is DOT’s announcement:

Beginning Monday, August 6th, the
of Central
between Lenox
and the 7th Avenue Exit will be closed to motor
vehicles for an additional hour (7-8am) during the morning peak period.
Currently, the West
is open to motor vehicles between the hours of
7-10am and operates as an HOV 2+ only roadway. With this change, the
will be open to motor vehicles between the
hours of 8-10am only and will continue to operate as an HOV 2+ roadway. This
additional hour of closure of the West Drive to motor vehicles provides an
additional hour of conflict-free recreational use during the early morning

It’s nice to see progress but if this is a symbolic step to a "Greater, Greener New York," it sure is a small one.

Photo: Lenox Ave. entrance, Sunday night

  • Steve

    I’m glad they did this, but the extremely measured nature of the change (just one hour, just one side of the loop) does make it seem unlikely that there will be additional restrictions announced anytime soon. The primary beneficiaries of this closure from 7 am to 8 am are recreating, not commuting cyclists.

    If we’re looking for compromises, what would make sense would be to give the middle lane over entirely to cyclists, let the joggers and walkers have the current “recreation” lanes, and leave the motor vehicle traffic the remaining (outside) lane. That would address the real problems of (1) danger from the cars and (2) competition among bicyclists, runners and walkers/strollers in the “recreation” lane.

  • Steve

    And another thing . . . how come I didn’t get notified of this via the DoT’s new e-alerts that I signed up for? Were they embarassed?

  • greg

    i’m not impressed

  • momos

    At this rate, the promised 30% CO2 reductions won’t happen til 3030.

  • nobody

    Any additional car-free time is good, but the fact that the “new DOT” can only squeeze our 1 hour is a sign that someone very rich, powerful and ignorant on the UWS or UES is blocking progress.

    Who could that be, and how are they connected to the Administration? Bloomberg, Doctoroff?

  • This is a boon to recreational morning users which is great, but a very small step compared to my current expectations of the new DOT and GreeNYC. Still it’s a continued nibbling.

    Two points:

    1. HOV+2 HAHAHAHAHA…that’s funny. Except for the cabs, this is

    2. When they finally get rid of the cars, they need to replace all the traffic signals with large yield signs for the cyclists, joggers and any 100% official vehicles that will continue to use the loop.


  • nobody

    And yeah, Glenn is right about that HOV+2 rule being a joke.

  • JF

    A whole hour? Clearly great things are afoot.

  • MD

    This is not a disappointment, but an outrage.

  • Frank

    I agree, MD. It’s hard to see this as anything but an insult.

    If this is all Mike Primeggia would allow Janette and her gang to do, they probably just should have skipped it this year.

    My feeling at the moment is that I’m not going to put on a green t-shirt and wave an “I Breathe and I Vote” sign for an Administration and a Mayor that refuses even to do the cheap and easy stuff that would really make a difference in our lives right now.

  • Dan

    So this is what passes for leadership these days. I’m more disappointed than surprised. The real challenge of environmental leadership is being able to challenge entrenched and powerful interests. If the mayor can’t find a way to stop cars from being parks how is he going to stop them from ruining the streets.

  • d

    And still no movement on Prospect Park…disappointing.

    One positive thing about this is that it gives advocates for car-free parks to monitor the effect this closure has on traffic in the neighboring areas. If, as expected, there is no notable change in the amount of traffic outside the park as a result of this one-hour extension, then it will be easier to lobby for 100% car-free parks.

  • My take is that the DOT has bought into the nibbling approach that Jan Gehl advocates. Copenhagen didn’t become a biking haven overnight and the Stroget was cobbled together over decades, not in one swift stroke.

    Nibbling also allows small scale projects to thrive in little hothouses and then the successful ones get propagated around town.

    I think they are being too cautious on Central park, but I respect that they want to show continued incremental progress on weaning motorists of using the park.

    Block party on the 100th street entrance Monday morning at 7am anyone?

    You can all meet my dog that I walk in the park every morning…

  • ddartley

    Why does Car Free Central Park oppose letting cars in after dark?

    Twice now, I’ve heard after-dark joggers say that they’d feel less safe if they no longer saw occasional cars drive by while they’re jogging alone at night.

    I support the campaign overall, but I’ve thought about it a lot–what would be wrong with just letting them in, say, between 9pm and 5:30am?

    I’m sure this very idea has already been discussed at great length, but I’ve just never caught the discussion. Any insights?

  • alex

    Although not what I would like, I agree with d in that I do see this as an incremental step.
    As for late night car hours, this is worht discussing but regardless of how one breaks it down it is a BAD idea.First, why open the park to autos during the evening? The park officially closes at 1am, so they would have to change park hours. For example, because my girlfriend commutes through CP from her odd-hours hospital job, and I often meet her in the park on our bikes late in the evening, we have been warned about passing through the park on our bikes after 1am.
    Near as I can tell, park hours are primarily established to prevent people from sleeping in the park. So, tyring to have the park opened for cars late at night would conflict with other aims of the city.
    Plus, many cars already race (literally) through the park after 11pm (even though it is officially closed). I can’t imagine the number of people who would decide to try their new coupe out on a few turns if the park were opened up late at night.

  • JM

    ddartley — civilian cars in the park make no one safer. A car cruising through the park at night with the windows rolled up sees nothing and hears nothing. Don’t mistake a genuine police presence with some schmuck taking a shortcut.

  • gecko

    A lot of people drive into the city real early to avoid traffic so this might have more of an effect than immediately apparent.

  • nobody

    Now, if we could only get the East Drive closed from 4-5PM, so that kids could have a place to exercise after school.

  • ddartley

    Alex, I have to join the warning chorus; I’ve gotten a ticket for riding my bike through CP after 1am. (For being there after closing, not for being on a bike.)

  • Fendergal

    I ride with my team in CP on weekday mornings, and the initial car-free hour of 6-7 made a big difference. I look forward to not having to listen to the sound of car horns and car engines bearing down on us at 7 (or ten of 7 in many cases).

    And as someone who has commuted home through the park after dark, I also dislike having cars there at that time (this includes those shuttle buses from the Boathouse). No way do they contribute to my sense of safety. I would like to say that the police presence helps, but they feel like a non-issue as well. Except in the deadest chill of winter, there are always other park users at night, and I’d like think that we’re all looking out for each other.

    Agreeing with “nobody,” in that I would also like to see additional car-free hours added in the afternoon.

  • Emerson

    Could somebody explain how this is going to work with the East and West Drives being open and closed and the part between Sixth Avenue and 72nd Street being open and closed when? Why not just close the West Drive all the time?

  • Steve


    I agree its a bit confusing and that the rationale for such a marginal change is unfathomable. Here’s my understanding of motorist access to the Central Park Roadways as of August 6:

    -Cars can enter West Drive from 110th street down to West 72nd Street between 8 am and 10 am;

    -They can continue on from West Drive past 6th Avenue and up the East side (or, 7 am to 10 am, and 4 pm to 7 pm, they can enter at 6th Ave. and proceed up the East Side) to 72nd Street. In other words, the portion of East Drive south of 72nd Street is, for some reason, not considered part of East Drive for purposes of recent marginal reductions in car traffic in the Park.

    -Cars can enter at East 72nd Street and go crosstown to West 72nd Street 7 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 7 pm, or proceed north up East Drive from 4 pm until 7 pm.

    -November 24 through January 1, the scheme changes and the entire Loop and the 72nd Street crosstown are open to cars 7 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 7 pm (assuming that DoT takes back the hour it just gave for “holiday mitigation”?).

    That’s clear, isn’t it?

  • Jen

    Why would it go back to 7 am on November 24th through January 1st? I’m psyched for the change because that’s when I commute to school from west to east, however, I agree, I think they should close it on the east side in the afternoon by a few hours. 3pm is too early to have it open. Of course, they should close it altogether, and further, put in a mid-park bike crossing path for commuters who go from upper east and west sides and would like to do it car/pedestrian-free.

    BTW…When is the last time those cars were clocked? 25 mph? That’s a joke! When is the last time anyone spotted a car being pulled over for speeding in the park? It should be 15 to deter anyone from even wanting to take the park as an alternate route.

  • Steve

    We’ll see if the “holiday traffic mitigation” plan, under which DOT has rolled back car free hours in CP from Nov through January 1 for the last 2 years, is once again invoked to roll back this additional one car free hour. The rationale for “holiday traffic mitigation” is that holiday shoppers add congestion, and that increasing access to the CP loop lessens the congestion.

    It is more likely that opening the Park Loop to cars simply adds cars. But assume for a moment that DoT has the situtation properly analyzed. Why, then, deosn’t DoT reduce vehicular access to the Park during the summer, when the demands for Park space of non-motorists increase relative to those of motorists? People use the Park more in the summer due to nicer weather, longer daylight hours, no school for kids, vacations for adults, etc. It is also apparent that there is less traffic in the summer in the Upper East and West Sides and in midtown b/c many leave town for the summer or at least extended portions of it.

    Why doesn’t the diminution of vehicular traffic in the summer justify an increase in car-free hours? Because people out of cars don’t count as much as people in cars?

    The current policy is completely indefensible.


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