Traffic-Free NYC

Head to New York City this Saturday, Aug, 20, for the last of its three Summer Streets festivals and experience the city in a totally different way.

On these Saturdays, Park Avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park (including the underpass under Grand Central!) are closed to all motor traffic from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are turned into a people-friendly venue on which to bike, skate, run, stroll and just hang out.

Here’s a report from WWBPA members Norma and Tim, with pictures they’ve taken over the years:

We first learned of Summer Streets four years ago when it began and have been returning each year for at least one and sometimes two or three events. In 2010, we took the Staten Island Ferry with our bikes and joined dozens of others in a ride up the West Side bikeway and then across town to City Hall where we started up the route first on Lafayette Street and then onto Park Avenue all the way up to 72nd Street, where we headed west into Central Park. Along the way, we passed dance troupes, Juan Valdez and his burro at the free coffee stand, swimming pools made from large metal containers with a “beach area with cabanas” on the side, through the tunnel at Grand Central Station and on up to the park. All manner of bike, tricycle and other people-powered vehicles wheeled gracefully uptown and downtown, and everyone– police officers, riders, joggers, and walkers–were in great high spirits and having a ball.
After riding for a couple of hours, we dropped our bikes off at the Bike Valet around 23rd Street and headed into the “Picnic Area,” where Whole Foods had set up booths to dispense goodies from yogurts to gelatos, cheeses to juices and all manner of free yummies. As 1p.m. approached, we headed back to the West Side and rode back to the ferry and started the boat and car trip back to Princeton Junction.
This year we decided to leave the bikes at home, ride the train in and take advantage of the “Free Bike Rentals” from Bike NY. We took our helmets and bike gloves in, as the thought of shared helmets was too much to contemplate. Once up from the depths of Penn Station, a brisk stroll east to Park Avenue got us to the pick-up station at 25th St. As we stood in line, we learned that the “free” portion is limited to 60 minutes, after which they charge $1/minute. The idea is to let everyone have a chance and to get a constant supply of bikes coming back. Within 20 minutes, we were on street bikes and heading uptown. The hour is enough time to go the majority of the route, but left no time to visit the entertainment venues, so next year, our own bikes go in with us. We did have a great time and the bikes provided were quite good.

To promote safety, the DOT has a “free helmet” program where you sign up and receive a brand-new helmet along with assistance in getting it correctly fitted. There are free bike repair areas and places where they provide training on how to ride. The whole experience is very bike and pedestrian friendly.

Thanks, Tim and Norma, for sharing this!

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One Response to “Traffic-Free NYC”

  1. Michael Ogg says:

    That’s so cool! I too wanted to get up to NYC for at least one of these but unfortunately hospitalization + a broken wheelchair (followed by earthquake then hurricane) – there went my august. Btw: I recommend taking NJ Transit to Penn station. You can take your bike on the train. There was a great video in the NYT:




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