Summer Streets Is Over. Long Live Summer Streets!

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Powered by thousands of New Yorkers hungry for car-free public space and aided by three consecutive weeks of picture perfect weather, there can be little doubt that the Summer Streets experiment was by most measures a rousing success. Still, the New York Times reports that the city will "study the effect on businesses closely" before deciding how, or if, it will continue with the program, and the question of how best to accommodate all human-powered modes remains an open one.

With that in mind, consider this an open thread — a Summer Streets epilogue. What was your favorite aspect of the inaugural season? Least favorite? Should the program be expanded with new routes, days, or hours? Should there be separate Summer Streets for fitness-minded cyclists, inline skaters and runners? Assuming it carries on with the program, what can the Bloomberg administration do to ensure its survival under the next mayor?

In short, what is the ideal future Summer Street?

Photo: acsweet/Flickr

  • I’ll start it off. I got to run 8 miles on Saturday instead of biking it. That was equally fun, In fact it might be the first time I ever got to run in the middle of a city street without being timed for a NYRR race or have to worry about being hit.

    In over 2 hours of walking and running, I saw very little to report in terms of bike/ped/other user conflict. Though there were a few times as a runner I did feel a bit intimidated by a couple dozen bikes sailing by in a row.

    I thought the idea of having separation north of Grand Central was a good idea, in case some cyclists want to go a little faster for portions of the route. I just don’t think it should be done for the entire route, it is beautiful to see the co-mingling of people on Lafayette street.

    What would I like to see? Let’s try the same thing on SAturdays in October! Then next year go for a full summer closure from Memorial Day to Labor Day (with added bonuses of car-free Parks forever!)

    I’d also like to see a rotation to different boroughs every four weeks. That way if there are severe objections/complications by communities they’d only have to deal with it for four weeks at a time.

  • Thoughts:
    1. There should always be a feeder ride from every borough; they were a great way to start the day, get into the spirit of the event, and build community! The first two weeks, I came down from the UWS and the Bronx; this past week, I had to forego the feeder rides because none were being offered from northern Manhattan or the Bronx.

    2. The segregation of wheels and feet this week seemed effective for smooth traffic flow north of GCT (I didn’t get south), but I wondered if the event had lost a little of its soul. I liked the mingling of pedestrians and cyclists at the first Summer Streets.

    3. Summer Streets should be an all-day event. A 1 p.m. close is too early for many of us who are either need to sleep in or shop at our farmer’s markets Saturday mornings.

    4. Additional routes should include the Grand Concourse and Broadway from Marble Hill to Battery Park–let’s traverse the entire length of the island (and bring some business and love to uptown, while we’re at it).

  • Summer streets is fun, and I had a great time– but honestly, I wish that there was more being done to help people commute. Summer streets was about community and recreation. But, to me, biking and walking are primarily transportation. I want summer streets during rush hour all summer long.

    That might be too much to ask, but wouldn’t more people commute if we had a safe bike and walking corridor in the center of the city to complement the greenways along the water?

    That all said, since this event I’ve seen a spike in bike riding all over the city on the days after sumer streets. The event helps get people back in to riding: it did that for me.

  • Ian Turner

    I went to summer streets with some friends and we had a great time. The most dramatic thing for me was the quiet — areas that are normally filled with cars and their noise had instead the quiet laughter of children. We enjoyed conductorcize, and the project overall was a lot of fun and clearly a success.

    That said, I think there are plenty of things the city could do better. Park Avenue is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly street; north of 42nd st., there are few restaurants and fewer cafes. We got hungry but had to detour to traffic-filled Lexington to get something to eat. In Manhattan, a better route might be to switch to Broadway at Union Square and follow it up to the West side. Like Park Ave., Broadway is a beautiful, wide, and long street, but unlike Park, it has a lot more facilities of interest to pedestrians. Plus then you get a car-free Times Square out of the bargain.

    On foot, we did not encounter any conflicts with cyclists, even if we strayed to the “wrong” side of the street. We did see some cyclists scolded by NYPD Traffic for attempting to run red lights at crossings.

  • This time I participated with my Mom, Dad, wife, and one year old in his stroller.

    Both times I participated, I found myself wishing the City had chosen an Avenue with more street-level storefront commercial activity, because that would have helped close the case on this “good or bad for business” discussion.

    All things considered, Park Ave. does not have very exciting streetlife. The first week, we walked between 14th St. and the 30s. The third week, we walked down to Houston. I’m not terribly familiar with Park Ave in the 60s and 70s, but I know that in Midtown, and on the two stretches we walked, Park Ave. has much less interesting streetlife than several other avenues. I guess it was the way Park’s design lends itself to tame two-way conditions that helped nominate Park, but I do hope they try a different Avenue next time. Assuming the same approximate North and South limits, I’d nominate Broadway (of course!), or 3rd Ave., or 9th Ave for the next time NYC tries such an event–hopefully they won’t feel confined to just Summer!

  • “That might be too much to ask, but wouldn’t more people commute if we had a safe bike and walking corridor in the center of the city to complement the greenways along the water?”

    Hear, hear.

  • One other thing: I understand the tight focus on the impact for retailers and on businesses with Summer Streets. But let’s not loose sight of the big picture. I’m talking about the health and vibrancy of the entire city. If we want our city to be healthy, not just economically, but also socially and in terms of human health we should do everything we can to make the city and inviting and exciting place. Think of all the exercise people got– think of how this event helped people to meet other New Yorkers– think of what it’s done to combat anxiety and depression– you can’t put a number on that stuff.

    Summer Streets is good for the city because it’s the kind of thing that makes people like living in the city. Don’t we want people to stay here? Raise their kids? Not move to the suburbs? Remember the 70s and 80s when everyone left? Talk about “bad for business!”

    Come on, there’s more to evaluating an event then looking at retail sales for one day— we need to look at how this event, and others like it, help make the city a place where people want to live.

    It’s fine to, look at the numbers, yeah, and I bet they’ll show some positive trends. But let’s not make the numbers for one day primary criteria for judging the events success. I look at the young people, moving without fear for once, on little bikes, skates, scooters and on foot. How can you put a price tag on that?

    (PS. can someone remove my last post? I left out the first sentence…)

  • I didn’t make it to a single one — those morning hours just don’t work for a lot of people. Why not make it in the afternoon next time? Or better yet, all day.

  • Please do it on the West Side!

    I also think Broadway, top to bottom, would be a great choice.

  • rex

    Next year, close, err, I mean open Broadway from Battery Park to north end of Fort Tryon Park.

  • I’ll just say that while I would have liked more street-level commercial activity on the route, Park Avenue has wonderful places on the medians for people to have picnics, especially in the 50s and 60s. The businesses on Madison and Lexington were definitely doing good business when I walked over. It’s just a half block to good delis, groceries.

    The side streets are the biggest untapped opportunity. All sorts of great things could be done with that space.

    I’d like to see more done to emphasize the health angle – do health screenings, health education, highlight good nutrition, etc.

    It should go from sun-rise to sun-set. I felt rushed throughout the experience and “stranded” at 1pm when it closed.

    Is the Brooklyn Bridge the best place to connect to? I’m not sure. Manhattan or Williamsburg might be better. It was extremely crowded on the BB.

    Include Harlem. Run it straight up through Central Park to the Harlem River. That would make a great case for uniting the city.

  • I think one of the concerns – crowds and unruly cyclists – could be solved by adding additional routes in other boroughs on the same day. Three friends who joined me this Saturday were from Brooklyn, and another two were from Queens in Week 1. And we know TransAlt had their feeder rides, too… those would be unnecessary and would probably ease the burden a bit on the Park Avenue route if there were “satellite streets.”

  • william

    The Livable Streets community must loudly support DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan and her team for Summer Streets and various other bold projects DOT has implemented in the face of Albany’s rejection of congestion pricing. We must recall our frustrations during the reign of Iris Weinshall and realize that the next administration could return us to those days.

  • da

    The only downside for me was having to ride all the way from Park Slope just to get to the beginning of the ride.

    The city should lower the bar for participation in these events. People shouldn’t have to ride all the way into Manhattan just to get to the start. The route should be extended into Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, with seamless connections.

  • Susan D., I’m with you on putting the focus on commuting. I commute by bike as well and I wish they’d focus on making riding through the city a lot better, especially for the bulk of people who look at a street like 2nd Ave and say there’s no way they’d bike that during rush hour.

    I was amazed at the number of people who showed up for Summer Streets, it was great. Too bad we don’t see them out there every day, or every weekend for that matter.

    Put in some wide dedicated arteries for non-motor traffic. Make sure they’re linked up together and with bridges and stuff. Dedicated MUPs aren’t the answer to anything, but the painted bike lanes are a joke and without a real dedicated commuting/transit infrastructure, there’s no way I’d put my kid in a trailer and ride crosstown from the Queensboro Bridge to get to the West Side Greenway even though it would be a fun excursion.

  • SikBug

    I went all three weekends, made it a point to even cancel plans just to get up early enough to go. The 3rd time I only went as far downtown as Union Sq and it made it for a much better time (more people crammed on smaller roads). Also this 3rd time I had the need to want to go fast, so I went to CP and did the loop and came back across to 72nd and went back down park. The park was noticeably less crowded compared to a normal Sat morning for sure. Also I think maybe moving it to a Sunday might be better for the business, since a lot are closed or the traffic is normally slower anyway. I also liked the idea someone else had to leave only people on wheels for one road side of the road and everyone else on the other.

  • E

    I absolutely agree that this proves there is strong demand for a cycling corridor to and through midtown that should be available every day of the year. There is no way commuting by bike will take hold in significant numbers without it.

    I also agree that Summer Streets would be more fun on a street like Broadway. Can you even imagine how crowded with foot and bike traffic Broadway would be if it were closed to motor vehicle traffic on weekend afternoons? There would be no question that it was good for merchants.

    In any event, I agree with Susan that evaluating whether it was “good for business” or “good for the city” based on the sales figures of a few local shops is completely short-sighted, and I think any economic development expert would agree too.

    Finally, three cheers for the DOT — it was an amazing feat to pull this off, and thousands of people had a blast thanks to you!

  • Felix

    I would extend the Broadway closing to the Yonkers border and have feeder routes from Brooklyn and Queens as well.

  • Max Rockatansky

    “Summer streets is fun, and I had a great time– but honestly, I wish that there was more being done to help people commute.”

    Dedicated bike and bus lanes. A bike is the easiest, healthiest and cheapest way between two points. And a lot of times it’s the quickest (not necessarily for me, because I’m a little slow, but for others – for others!)

    Hopefully, as mentioned earlier, Summer Streets inspires people to get out of and feel like they have a right to the streets.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, all weekend, all summer.

    Local stores (not street fair peddlers) and residents allowed to put tables and chairs in the parking lanes, to hang out, dislay wares, consume restaurant food, etc.

    I think you could even keep the buses. You’d have the police barriers on one side of the street — the side entering the block, with a “buses only” sign on it. The buses would enter a block by swerving to the other side (which would normally be against traffic) and then back into the correct lane. You’d need drivers skilled enough to move through a street full of bikes, skateboards, etc.

  • mfs

    I had a great time at all of them- DOT did a really great job putting this on. it really captured the spirit of the Bogotá ciclovía! (although with a lot more corporate branding.)

    Two things that bothered me about the third one:
    1- the separated lanes north of GCT were too narrow for biking- it squeezed too many bikes into the bike lane and then people ended up riding in the very under-used pedestrian side to get enough room, especially after a mass of people stopped. the separated lanes really did not work.

    2- the volunteers were stopping bikers at non-car-crossing intersection to help people cross, which was a great idea. however, they were not given stop signs- they were given signs that said “stop ahead” which was confusing and led to a couple near-collisions because they appeared to be asking people to stop where they were standing, not farther down.

  • Spud Spudly

    I skipped the third Summer Street but spent hours cruising the first two. Expand it, take it to new avenues (Columbus would be nice!). Make it an every week happening. But keep the bikes away from the pedestrians! And also it would be nice to allow some more vendors.

  • Is Summer Streets even something that should be evaluated by money made? How much business do the stores on 5th do during a parade? Alcohol sales may be up during the St Patty’s Day Parade but how are the barbers doing? Should we check and make sure that the furniture retailers are selling enough ottomans before we hold another Columbus Day Parade?

  • david

    I guess I’m not getting why the opening of streets is for walkers who can walk anyway. Seems to make more sense for bikers or runners. In general as an exp. biker, I avoid the amature riders like the plague. Still I support the idea, there needs to be lanes somehow.

  • Spud Spudly

    I’m not getting it about the opening of the streets to bikers. Every street in the city is already open to bikers 24/7/365. Go ride there and let the pedestrians walk in the one street that they can.

  • Oh no! This is the first weekend without Summer Streets. I must be going through withdrawal. It’s amazing how quickly we can become addicted to such pleasures.

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