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Posts from the "Car-Free Streets" Category

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Here They Are — Your Car-Free Street Scenes From Marathon Day

If you can get to the course early enough, marathon Sunday lets you roam freely, for one morning, on some of New York’s most atrocious traffic sewers. Here’s a look at how some people made the most of the car-free time.



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Remember This Hashtag – #marathonfunday

Rise with the sun on marathon day and you can claim what’s typically a car-choked mess all to yourself. Photo: Doug Gordon

Quick, what’s the biggest car-free event of the year?

Summer Streets gives New Yorkers the longest stretch of contiguous roadway with no traffic, but marathon Sunday might reclaim more asphalt — even if you don’t count the route itself, all the car-free side streets along the way add up.

Of course, if you get up early enough you can enjoy block after block of the marathon route before the course gets cleared for the race. Doug Gordon and his daughter Galit did it last year on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn and it looks like a ton of fun.

This year there’s a movement afoot on Twitter to capture the spirit of car-free New York City streets on marathon day. To share your photos, use the hashtag #marathonfunday.

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Madrid Moves Toward a Car-Free Center City

Drivers who don't live in the center city will no longer be able to drive through Madrid's core neighborhoods. Image: City of Madrid

Drivers who don’t live in the center city will no longer be able to drive through Madrid’s core neighborhoods. Map: City of Madrid

Beginning in January, Madrid will enact new policies to keep cars out of almost 500 acres in the core of the city, part of a long-term plan to entirely pedestrianize the center city.

El Pais in Spain is reporting that, unless they live there, drivers will no longer be allowed to enter the city’s four most central neighborhoods. Instead, all outside traffic will be routed along a select few major avenues. The penalty for driving into one of the restricted zones without permission will be 90 Euros, Architecture Daily reports.

The new rule is expected to reduce traffic in the affected areas by at least one third. Motorcycles and delivery vehicles will be able to enter the zones at certain hours.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón told El Pais, “The main objective is to reduce traffic passing through neighborhoods and looking for parking agitation, while increasing parking spaces for residents.”

The measure is in keeping with the city’s 2020 Mobility Plan, which aims to gradually pedestrianize the city center. Madrid has also raised on-street parking rates and increased the use of speed enforcement cameras in an effort to encourage walking, biking, and transit.

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Kidical Mass NYC and Summer Streets Bring Out the Tykes on Bikes

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This just about captures the mood on the ride from Borough Hall to Astor Place. (Note: Biking on the sidewalk is legal in NYC if you’re under 13.) All photos: Ben Fried

Mission accomplished for the first Kidical Mass NYC ride: The all-ages Saturday morning bike convoy from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Summer Streets was a ton of fun.

Moms, dads, and kids — about two dozen people all told — made the trip with an assortment of box bikes, child seats, trailers, and kiddie cycles. The self-propelled children were super impressive. No one had training wheels, and they all made it over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here are some photos of the ride, plus some shots of Summer Streets, which seems to be drawing more families with kids every year. To plug into the next Kidical Mass NYC ride, follow them on Facebook.

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At Kidical Mass, everyone got their cues from ride organizers Ali Loxton and Doug Gordon.

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First leg: Cadman Plaza.

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Tourists all over the place on the Brooklyn Bridge? No problem.

Summer Streets itself has turned into a great family event and on-the-ground classroom for precocious cyclists. It is simply amazing to see kids as young as 4 pedaling down Park Avenue and Lafayette Street. And there are a ton of them…

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How Brownsville, Texas, Is Using Bikes to Address Social Problems

Brownsville, Texas' open streets events CycloBia has been a huge success. Photo: CycloBia Brownsville

Brownsville’s open streets event, “CycloBia,” has been a huge success. Photo: CycloBia Brownsville

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

Brownsville, a Texas border town, is frequently cited as one of the poorest cities in the country. It also has one of the highest obesity rates.

But local officials have taken on some of the city’s health problems. And one of the key tools they’re using is cycling.

Planning Director Ramiro Gonzalez says it’s been about two years since the city of 180,000 people — 93 percent of them Latino — began its cycling push. City Commissioner Rose Gowen, a doctor, made health-based initiatives a key part of her agenda.

"People inherently want to be active. But there’s always an excuse," says Brownsville's Planning Director Ramiro Gonzalez. Photo: CycloBia Brownsville

“People inherently want to be active. But there’s always an excuse,” says Brownsville’s Planning Director Ramiro Gonzalez. Photo: CycloBia Brownsville

“It really started at the level of getting people active to improve [their] health,” Gonzalez said.

Since then, the city has implemented a complete streets policy and adopted the National Association of City Transportation Officials‘ Urban Bikeway Design Guide — which, unlike older American engineering guidelines, includes protected bike lanes.

The city has been putting that guidance to good use, adding about 30 miles of bike lanes in the last year.

But once you have bike infrastructure, how do you get people to use it? City leaders brought in livable streets expert Gil Penalosa, former director of parks, sports, and recreation for Bogotá, Colombia. He got the idea of an open streets or cyclovia event percolating. This year, Brownsville has held eight open streets events, which it calls CycloBia, clearing major downtown avenues of car traffic and opening them to active play. The city is planning two more before the year’s end

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Why Is Summer Streets So Rare?

The forecast for Saturday is bleak — 100 percent chance of rain, lasting just about all day. Tomorrow also happens to be the first Summer Streets event of 2014 (as well as the first during the de Blasio mayoralty). Good thing the main attraction is in a tunnel.

But since there are only two other Summer Streets on the calendar this year, this question is highly relevant:

Since Summer Streets began in 2008, the main obstacle to running it more frequently has reportedly been the pricetag. It shouldn’t cost much just to keep cars off Park Avenue and Lafayette Street, but the heavy NYPD presence adds up. If the traffic was managed by fewer cops — and sources familiar with the event have said this is entirely doable — Summer Streets could happen more often.

Until then, one consolation is that there are several smaller car-free street events around the city each summer. Sunday’s forecast is looking more promising than Saturday’s, and parts of the Grand Concourse, 204th Street in the Bronx, and Astoria’s Shore Boulevard will be open to people and free from traffic.

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Buenos Aires: Building a People-Friendly City

Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.

Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world’s widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.

That’s not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren’t permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint — you’re not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!

Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years — up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city’s bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.

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Summer Streets and (Mostly) Car-Free Central Park: Same As Last Year

It's back, but not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer, as smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT

It’s back, though not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer (sorry, Prospect Park), and smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT

Six years ago, when Summer Streets was introduced, the New York Times asked: Will it work? This year, the question is: Why isn’t the city doing more of it?

The ciclovia, which attracted 300,000 people over three Saturdays last August, will mark its seventh year by returning to the East Side on August 2, 9, and 16 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. The event brings car-free streets, art, and activities to almost seven miles of Park Avenue and Lafayette Street between 72nd Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Like last year, there will also be by a completely car-free loop drive in Central Park north of 72nd Street, removing car traffic from that section of the park 24 hours a day from Friday, June 27 to Labor Day.

Trottenberg said that after this summer, the city will look at expanding Summer Streets and car-free hours in both Central Park and Prospect Park, which was left out of today’s announcement.

“I’m hearing from a lot of folks who are interested in making both parks a lot more car-free, and I can tell you we’re working on it,” Trottenberg said, adding that traffic signal or engineering changes might be required because traffic picks up after Labor Day. “We would love to expand the program,” she said. ”You just have to make sure you have a good plan to accommodate that.”

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Seattle Opens Up Neighborhood Streets for Kids to Play

Seattle launched its "play streets" program on Friday. Photo: Seattle Department of Transportation

Seattle launched its Play Streets program on Friday. Photo: Seattle Department of Transportation

At St. Terese Academy in Seattle last week, students held relay races on 35th Avenue. It was field day at the Madrona neighborhood school, and thanks to a new initiative from the city of Seattle, the kids had some extra space to stretch their legs.

The elementary school was the first to take part in Seattle’s new “Play Streets” program, which launched last Friday. ”Play Streets” will allow community groups to apply for permits to keep traffic off their block specifically to establish safe, temporary spaces for children to play.

Jennifer Wieland, manager of Seattle DOT’s Public Space Management Program, which oversees Play Streets, said the city was acting on numerous requests from residents. The city has for years operated a program for block parties, which allows neighbors to request a permit for a temporary car-free street. But Seattleites started to ask about scheduling car-free events with greater regularity and incorporating play equipment like swings and sand boxes.

“It’s about having that little extra bit of community speace to do something creative,” said Wieland. “It’s really out of people’s desires to build community and create great neighborhoods.”

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What’s the Status of Car-Free Central Park and Prospect Park in 2014?

Last year, the city announced that much of Central Park’s loop drives would go car-free all summer long. With temperatures warming, the park is again filling with people walking, jogging, and biking — all sharing space with car commuters looking for a rush-hour shortcut. Will it happen again — or expand — this year? Negotiations are underway to bring a car-free summer back to Central Park, and meanwhile it’s still an open question whether Prospect Park users will get similar summer traffic relief for the first time.

A pleasant, car-free Central Park. Photo: gigi_nyc/Flickr

Central Park could be pleasant and car-free all the time. Photo: gigi_nyc/Flickr

The movement for car-free parks has gained momentum and major political support after years of advocacy, yielding design changes to park roads and steady expansions of car-free hours in two of the city’s busiest parks.

The push for a car-free Central Park has been complicated of late by a de Blasio administration pledge to ban horse carriages and replace them with old-timey electric cars in the park. Last week, the Central Park Conservancy came out against the electric cars, saying they would “increase congestion” and “make the park less safe.” Cars in the park are tied with crowds as the top complaint of Central Park visitors, according to a 2011 survey by the conservancy [PDF].

Horse carriage operators have seized upon the car-free park message to argue against a ban on their industry. ”As carriage drivers, our priority is safety,” said carriage industry spokesperson Christina Hansen in a statement released by the Teamsters union. “With tens of thousands of injuries caused by car crashes every year in New York City, why bring cars into Central Park at all times of day?”

The landscape has also shifted across the East River, where Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took over from car-free Prospect Park opponent Marty Markowitz. It remains to be seen, however, if Adams will become a champion of getting cars out of the park. His old state Senate district included the park, and he has a record of equivocating on the issue. “I would love, ideally, to close all our parks to vehicular traffic, but I don’ t want to do it in a manner that would put the surrounding communities into an environmental or traffic shock,” he told Patch in 2011.

Adams’s Manhattan counterpart, Gale Brewer, has a much more direct take on Central Park. “I remain committed to a permanent ban on cars in the park,” Brewer said in a statement. ”In the meantime, an almost car-free park in the summer months is a great initiative and should continue.”

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