Parents and Kids Ride for a Car-Free Prospect Park

Participants in the "Kidical Mass" ride called for a permanent car-free park loop following DOT's eight-week trial this summer.

During the weekday rush, the city still lets people drive on the Prospect Park loop next to vulnerable people on bikes. Photo: David Meyer
During the weekday rush, the city still lets people drive on the Prospect Park loop next to vulnerable people on bikes. Photo: David Meyer

Parents and children biked through Prospect Park this morning, calling on the city to get cars off the park loop all year round. The “Kidical Mass” ride started at 8:30 a.m. to highlight the absurdity of letting a handful of drivers zoom by children and families as they use the park for recreation.

Responding to many years of public pressure, the city has whittled down car access in the park over the years, and now only the east side of the park loop is a shortcut for car traffic, and only on weekdays from 7 to 9 a.m. During those hours, however, the presence of fast-moving car traffic is all the more alarming.

“When cars are in the park, it just makes it, as a parent, and just as a person, it makes it a terrifying experience,” said Boerum Hill resident Grace Freedman.

For eight weeks this summer, DOT made the whole park loop continuously car-free and said it would study making the change permanent. There was no vocal opposition to the car-free trial.

Few people still drive through the park. Before the summer closure, cyclists, walkers, and joggers outnumbered motorists by more than 1,000 to 300 per hour during the morning rush on the east side of the park loop. This morning, only five cars passed by the group ride over the course of 20 minutes.

One of only five cars spotted on the East Drive during this morning's ride. Photo: David Meyer
Traffic on the Prospect Park loop is down to a trickle. Photo: David Meyer

“It was nice to not have the cars in the park for those couple of weeks,” said Paul Vogel of Prospect Heights, who attended the ride with his 6-year-old son. “He can ride the loop of the park, which we do on the weekends, but then, during the week, there’s traffic. It’s just more pleasant — it’s a park, it should have a park feel.”

Streetsblog asked DOT for a status update on its evaluation of the car-free trial and its plans moving forward. The agency sent this statement:

After Labor Day, Prospect Park’s East Drive reopened to vehicles following a well-received summer pilot when the park was car-free at all times for the first time ever. Currently, we are analyzing data collected from the pilot during those low-volume months, and we will collect additional data with the Drive reopened in order to make future determinations about vehicles on the East Drive.

As for the data, we are looking at travel times as well as traffic counts in and outside of the park and any impacts the car-free park had on neighboring streets this summer or might have during other parts of the year. DOT will continue to consult with local elected officials and stakeholders and we look forward to sharing our findings by the end of the year.

In 2002 and 2008, Transportation Alternatives collected 10,000 signatures in support of a car-free Prospect Park. An active petition to make the park permanently car-free has picked up 1,137 signatories so far.

“This should have been done a really long time ago,” Council Member Brad Lander said before the ride. “We are this close, and I’m really optimistic that with our continued pushing, we’re going to get it this year.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    One aspect of this — the signal timing at Grand Army Plaza. Right now there is a phase for vehicles to exit the park. You’d still need time for pedestrians and cyclists, but perhaps removing the signal time for those motor vehicles could help vehicles elsewhere.

  • Reader

    DOT is still evaluating travel times for drivers? Absurd. It’s a park! Who cares what preserving it as a place for people does to drivers’ travel times?

  • Vooch

    Park with only gravel paths and no cars – crazy ?

  • reasonableexplanation

    I wish the prospect park loop was kept open at night. It’s such a wonderful alternative to biking on the streets, but the NYPD shoos you away after dark, or tickets you. I sort of understand (though I disagree) not allowing loitering in parks at night, but passing through and using it as transportation; why not?

  • Exactly. It should be treated like Randall’s Island. You can use the Triboro Bridge and travel through Randall’s Island at night, even if you cannot get off the bike and play on the parkland (a restriction which I admit that I find indefensible).

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