New Twist for Summer Streets This Year — A Low-Car Zone Way Downtown

Image: DOT/Flickr
For five hours on August 13, motorists will be discouraged from entering the shaded area. Image: DOT/Flickr

In addition to the customary three Saturdays of car-free streets on Park Avenue and Lafayette Street this summer, the city will be trying out something new for Summer Streets. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 13, car traffic will be limited within a 60-block area of the Financial District.

The 13th will be the second Saturday in this year’s Summer Streets schedule. For the new car-lite zone, motorists entering the area will have to pass through NYPD-staffed “vehicular traffic entry points,” where they will be encouraged to drive five miles per hour or less. With minimal car traffic entering the neighborhood, the streets will open up to “cultural programming, including walking tours and other activities,” according to City Hall’s announcement.

The city is calling the low-car zone “Shared Streets,” evoking the concept of “shared space” where pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers navigate the street based on subtle visual cues and the movements of all other users, as opposed to curbs, signage, and markings. Light vehicular traffic and slow speeds are key to a successful shared space.

DOT’s 2013 Sustainable Streets report highlighted the potential of turning Financial District streets into shared spaces. Most vehicular traffic in the area goes in and out of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel via West Drive and the FDR Drive — meaning drivers actually need to access the neighborhood’s streets. “The City could consider creating a wider pedestrian precinct on additional smaller streets, with freight delivery access during specific off–peak windows,” the report said. “Shared streets — pedestrian streets with very slow vehicle access — could complement or be central to such an initiative.”

The Shared Streets program will be the first test of that concept.

The rest of the Summer Streets schedule remains pretty much identical to past years. Seven miles of streets between the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue will be car-free from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on three Saturdays in August — the 6th, 13th, and 20th.

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