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Posts from the Car-Free Streets Category

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Eyes on the Street: The New 215th Step-Street Officially Opens Today

The 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

The new 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

Over a decade after the project’s first expected delivery date, the reconstruction of Inwood’s 215th Step-Street is complete.

West 215th Street crosses the width of Manhattan island’s northernmost neighborhood, from Inwood Hill Park to the Harlem River. Between Park Terrace East and Broadway, W. 215 is a step-street — one of many car-free street segments in Upper Manhattan and other parts of the city — connecting Broadway shops, buses, and the 1 train with residential blocks to the west.

Inwood history blogger Cole Thompson traced the origin of the double-wide staircase to 1915, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and “the automobile was still a relatively new contraption.”

By the late 20th century, the long, steep staircase was in sad shape. Resident requests to renovate the stairs date at least as far back as the 1990s, and the city once pledged to get the work done by 2005. For years afterward, however, the step-street continued to deteriorate, requiring periodic repairs as locals contended with ice patches and busted street lamps. In 2007 a woman was injured when she tripped on a hole in the stairs.

The stairway in 2008.

The stairway in 2008.

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Streetsblog USA
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500 People Ate Dinner on a Freeway in Akron This Weekend

"500 Plates" brought together people from all over Akron to have a meal together on the to-be-closed "Innerbelt Freeway." Photo: Jason Segedy

“500 Plates” brought together people from all over Akron to have a meal together on the Innerbelt Freeway, which is not long for this world. Photo: Jason Segedy

How’s this for a creative reuse of outdated 20th century infrastructure? This weekend, 500 people in Akron, Ohio, sat down and had dinner together on the Innerbelt Freeway.

The event, dubbed “500 Plates,” brought together people from all over the city to talk about the future of the Innerbelt. The city is planning to decommission the lightly-used 1970s-era highway and redevelop the land — but exactly how is still under discussion.

Photo: Jason Segedy

Photo: Jason Segedy

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Streetsblog USA
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Scenes From the Big Car-Free Day in Paris

The air was noticeably clearer yesterday over the city of Paris, where people walking, biking, skating, and otherwise getting around without a motor took over streets generally packed with cars, including the Champs Elysées.

About a third of Paris was free of motorized vehicles from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for buses and taxis. Car speeds were capped at 20 kilometers per hour in the rest of the city.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, at the urging of activists, initiated the massive car-free event as a lead-in to the city hosting COP21, the United Nations’ upcoming conference on climate change. Paris is plagued by diesel exhaust, and the skies over the city were noticeably bluer yesterday, according to the Guardian. The exhaust cleared. The rumble of traffic was gone. People seemed happier and less stressed.

One of the tens of thousands who took to the streets told the Guardian it was “like a headache lifting.”

Camille Carnoz of the bike activist group Vélorution said she hopes the car-free day leads to permanent changes:

Today is symbolic, it’s about giving people a dream, showing us what a city could look like without cars, a type of utopia. But we need to go further, with more and larger cycle routes, better parking spots for bicycles, slower speed limits. There’s a lot to be done.

Here are a few more views of the day without cars.

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It’s Past Time to Make Summer Streets Even Greater

New Yorkers enjoying Summer Streets last Saturday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New Yorkers enjoying Summer Streets last Saturday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

When Summer Streets launched in 2008, it was accompanied by a veritable New York media firestorm. “Will Car-Free ‘Summer Streets’ Work?” asked the Times. “Businesses Brace for Summer Streets,” warned WNYC. Seven years on, New York’s marquee car-free event has become a popular August institution. It’s time for more.

Since its first edition, Summer Streets has encompassed nearly seven miles of car-free streets on three summer Saturdays, along Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. Summer Streets attracted more than 300,000 people last year, DOT said. Yet despite the program’s popularity, the city hasn’t expanded it.

Smaller “Weekend Walks” events have grown over the years, bringing car-free streets to neighborhoods in all five boroughs. But these pedestrian-focused events aren’t the same as Summer Streets, which is big enough to attract people from all over the city. Most important, Summer Streets covers a car-free route long enough to entice New Yorkers onto their bicycles.

There are hurdles to expanding Summer Streets, which already relies on corporate sponsorships. “It takes a lot of funds,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said last year. “We have to work closely with the NYPD. It’s a lot of work to close down the streets, and to their credit, they come to the table and help us with this just out of their own resources.”

If the city can overcome its cost hurdles, there are a few ways to expand Summer Streets. It could be extended to happen on more than just three Saturdays in August, it could last beyond 1 p.m., it could cover a longer route, or it could cover additional routes in boroughs other than Manhattan.

Los Angeles, for example, has expanded its CicLAvia open streets event to downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley, and Watts, among other neighborhoods, with car-free hours lasting well into the late afternoon.

Where — and how — would you expand Summer Streets in New York? Let us know in the comments.

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Mark Your Calendars: Summer Streets Returns in August

Another summer, another edition of Summer Streets.

For the eighth year, New York’s spin on Ciclovia is coming to nearly seven miles of streets on Manhattan’s east side. For three Saturdays in August — the 1st, 8th and 15th — Park Avenue, Lafayette Street, and a portion of 72nd Street between Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge are going car-free between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Each year Summer Streets has something new as the main attraction. This time, New Yorkers will be able to ride a tube down “Slide the City,” which in a promotional video looks like a large, multi-block Slip ‘N Slide. It will be installed at Foley Square — but be warned, walk-ups are not allowed. Participants must register online in advance.

Another new addition this year: a dog run and agility course at Astor Place sponsored by the American Kennel Club. Dogs not your thing? Maybe try riding a handcycle, also at Astor Place. Activities returning from previous years include a zip line and parkour workshops.

The theme this year is “accessibility.” “Whether you want to slide on water, bike, run, play soccer, take a self-guided architectural tour or play with your dog, our streets are an accessible and fun place for city residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy those activities,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a press release.

Since launching on three Saturdays in 2008, Summer Streets has not expanded to cover more streets or hours of the day. A major factor is the police presence required by NYPD. At last year’s Summer Streets announcement, Trottenberg said that cost limits the city’s ability to expand the event.

Looking for more car-free summer fun? Bronxites might also want to check out Boogie on the Boulevard, organized in part by the Bronx Museum. The event turns the center lanes of the Grand Concourse between 161st and 167th streets into car-free spaces featuring music and other programs from noon to 4 p.m. on the first three Sundays of August.

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Eyes on the Street: New 215th Step-Street, With Bike Ramp, Taking Shape

Photos: Brad Aaron

Looking up the northern section of the 215th Step-Street from Broadway, with bike ramp on the left. Photos: Brad Aaron

It’s been a year since we checked up on the 215th Step-Street in Inwood, where the northern section of the long, steep stairway looks to be nearly finished — complete with bike ramp.

These stairs serve as a car-free street between Broadway and the 1 train and residential blocks that make up the northwest corner of the neighborhood. “The ancient passageway was built in an era when the automobile was still a relatively new contraption and getting up or down a hill required nothing more than a decent pair of shoes,” writes Cole Thompson at My Inwood. Check Thompson’s site for photos of the step-street dating from 100 years ago, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and there’s not a car in sight.

As promised, the Department of Design and Construction is rehabbing the northern and southern sections one at a time, with one remaining open. Locals have waited for the city to fix the stairs since the late 90s, at least, and while it seems doubtful that DDC will meet its spring deadline (the project, which began last January, was supposed to take 17 months), Inwoodites may be using the new northern section before long.

How cool is it that, on a public stairway built before the city ceded the streets to motor vehicles, the reconstructed stairs will feature a bike ramp as a modern amenity.

The stairs in 2008.

The stairs in 2008.

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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.

Streetsblog USA
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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

kidical_mass_cadman

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.

kidical_mass_staging

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

kidical_mass_cadman2

First leg: Cadman Plaza.

kidical_mass_brooklyn_bridge

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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