Pavement to the people!
August 10, 2008 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Hooray for New York City! They just had their first (of three) car-free days along a long stretch of Manhattan roadway: it's the Summer Streets program. How refreshing!

This blog entry from Livable Streets might be of some interest to any of you New Yorkers who'd like to help with this in some way.
posted by flapjax at midnite (25 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just out of curiosity, what's the policy with delivery trucks and the like on such days?
posted by jonmc at 7:31 AM on August 10, 2008

That is not impressive. Impressive is when LA shuts Wilshire boulevard down for a day.

When you take into account the hurdles of local politics and traffic that had to be circumvented to make this happen, it IS impressive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2008

FTTLTRTA: The ding of bicycle bells and the chatter of people on foot replaced the usual automobile noises along 6.9 miles of Manhattan for six hours on Saturday.
posted by mecran01 at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2008

Brilliant idea. NYC is a walkers' paradise, time to encourage more bicycles too. The air in the city felt fresher yesterday.
posted by nickyskye at 7:54 AM on August 10, 2008

Great idea, but dammit, you're making me want to be back in NYC, and I don't need any more nostalgia.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey rest of America: You're welcome
posted by Damn That Television at 8:00 AM on August 10, 2008

I was in Brooklyn last weekend, and I'm pretty sure I encountered this. It was pretty cool.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2008

Did anyone else read that as "cat free day"?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:29 AM on August 10, 2008

Paris does something like this every Sunday. The police simply stand in the intersection and force the cars to turn left. The drivers are all like Whaaa? This lane ends?? How the hell am I supposed to turn around? Oh man, it is a nightmare. Ha.
posted by metastability at 8:53 AM on August 10, 2008

I misread the title and thought NYC had banned cats for a day.
posted by krautland at 9:14 AM on August 10, 2008

Great idea. Every city should be this forward thinking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 AM on August 10, 2008

Citrus, I don't know what that was (still) but the summer streets program is Manhattan's answer to it, definitely.

and back in the day, Park Avenue was called Park Avenue for a reason...
(I now work in the building that replaced that big white one on the right, next to Bart's...)

what I saw of this project yesterday was cute. lots of bikes, a welcome change.
posted by Busithoth at 10:34 AM on August 10, 2008

Manhattan in the summer is anything but refreshing. I don't care how many cars are driving around.
posted by clearly at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2008

One of Montreal's major downtown arteries, rue Ste-Catherine, is shut down for about 15 blocks all summer (mid-June to Labour Day.)
posted by loiseau at 11:11 AM on August 10, 2008

Every recent Saturday in Williamsburg, parts of Bedford Ave have been shut down for pedestrians, people sitting at tables doing nothing in particular, and general good-time tomfoolery, as part of Williamsburg Walks. Yesterday, I watched people play ping pong. . . in the street!

posted by defenestration at 11:35 AM on August 10, 2008

One of the things I love about New York is the way New Yorkers seem to really own their city. I haven't lived there since I was 2, nor spent any significant time there since the 1970s/1980s, but from my brief visits and what I read, it seems like New Yorkers regard the city as their front porch, back yard and living room. So much of their lives is lived in public, on the streets and subways, in coffee shops and parks, that the whole city feels like an integral backdrop to citizens' lives. (As opposed to a place to go for work and a restaurant meal, then hightail it back home for seclusion and privacy.) I suppose it's a natural consequence of tiny apartments and limited open space, but I love how it makes New Yorkers so invested in their city.

Public events, from Improv Everywhere performances to car-free days, seem to reflect the intense involvement of New Yorkers in their city. People pour onto the streets to enjoy a few hours without cars, even though they're the same streets they see every day. But now there's a fun new way to enjoy them, so New Yorkers wade into the cacophony with enthusiasm. Much as I love San Francisco, I don't get the same sense here that one's private home is only a small part of one's personal real estate and life spills out onto an urban stage.

Plus it's amusing that big bad New York City is going greener than a lot of more glamorous shiny places. NY has a long way to go, of course, but those badass New Yorkers already walk and take public transportation way more than residents of other burgs (Angelenos, I'm looking at you). Hooray for New York indeed!
posted by Quietgal at 11:41 AM on August 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Excellent. Some of our local bike advocates took their bikes on NJT from Philly to NYC to check it out.
posted by fixedgear at 11:52 AM on August 10, 2008

Cambridge shuts down Memorial Drive every Sunday during the summer. Then it's clogged with another sort of pollution: roller-bladers.
posted by not_on_display at 12:21 PM on August 10, 2008

San Francisco does it in Golden Gate Park on Sundays, for the whole day (or 8-5, I suppose). They wanted to expand it to Saturdays, but a variety of interests went APESHIT and said no fucking way.

The mayor also wanted to shut down a small stretch of the Embarcadero for 4 hours for 2 Sundays ... and people went apeshit again, so I dunno.

Everywhere they do it, it seems to be great fun. I'm not sure I understand the fuss for *8 hours* a year.

And now Chris Daly is trying to shut down cars on Market St. permanently, which is one of the Willie Brown ideas I really liked.

I'm not going to Burning Man this year, so yes, I would very much like to play ping-pong on the streets of San Francisco (if the wind cooperates). Wouldn't we all? It's 2008, not 1979. It's time to get out of the car and actually have some fun in the streets for a change.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:52 PM on August 10, 2008

Enrique PeƱalosa gave a talk in Denver last week to kick off our local Living Streets Initiative. The temporary street closure is the first salvo. We're trying to do the same thing here. People begin to appreciate exactly what we give up when we assign so much space to cars. This could be the beginning of a real transformation of the American urban fabric, but it's going to take a while. I think the dramatic rise in gas prices is putting some power to this meme.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 5:39 PM on August 10, 2008

OMG, Manhattan closed a some streets to cars! Isn't the wittle city so proud of itself! Oh, that's so cute. One day, you might grow up and, just like chunks of older cities, get the god-damned cars off the people's streets for good!

In America, cars are objects of love and freedom. I can understand that, I grew up in Michigan. Manhattan is a different place. There simply is no justification to allow private autos to dominate the streets.

So you've experienced the car-free thing in summer. I've experienced much the same thing in winter, when a good hard blizzard hits the area. Observe the way this effects people's behavior. People feel good, they smile. You can hear laughter, even at a distance! This is what life in a city should always be like!

How many people live in Manhattan and own a car? Not many! Why bother? Most of those cars are occupied by people living outside the city. Why the hell should they be allowed to come in and be supported (by tax money) in making life miserable for the residents? It wouldn't be difficult to set things up to handle deliveries and movers, while getting rid of the swarms of private autos and taxis. Maybe even put some trams. They're really quite nice.
posted by Goofyy at 4:23 AM on August 11, 2008

Every recent Saturday in Williamsburg, parts of Bedford Ave have been shut down for pedestrians, people sitting at tables doing nothing in particular, and general good-time tomfoolery, as part of Williamsburg Walks. Yesterday, I watched people play ping pong. . . in the street!

I was there too. Not only was it fun, but the clash of old Williamsburg and new (you know what I'm talkin bout) Williamsburg was delicious. I was on the corner of Bedford and N. 1st waiting to cross the street when a car full of shall we say 'goombatz' kids (I'm Italian, I can say it) clearly from the 'old' neighborhood pulled up to the intersection and saw that the streets were all closed. Suddenly, the air erupted with a thunder clap of "WHAT DA FUUUUUCK!! WHAT DA FUCK IS DIS??"

I immediately stood frozen, knowing that entertainment of epic proportions was developing before my eyes. The car crept slowly into the intersection and then stopped directly behind one of the ping pong tables, where a skinny gentleman with a curling, obsessively cultivated handlebar moustache was waiting to play. Another thunderclap from my compatriots in the car - "HEY, ROLLIE FINGAS!! I'LL PLAY YA FOR A HUNDRED DOLLAS. HEY! HEY ROLLIE FUCKIN FINGAS! A HUNDRED BUCKS! I'LL PLAY YA!"

Senor Fingers blithely ignored the challenge, but the gentleman in the car would not let it go. As my lady friend and I strolled lazily down the street, I could still hear the shouts from the car in the distance - "YO ROLLIE FINGAS! COME ON I'LL PLAY YA!"

posted by spicynuts at 6:47 AM on August 11, 2008

How many people live in Manhattan and own a car? Not many! Why bother?

You do know what cabs are, yes? And delivery trucks? And tour buses?
posted by spicynuts at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2008

Nice to see that Ciclovia is finally spreading North of the Panama Canal.
posted by Crosius at 11:49 AM on August 11, 2008

OH MY GOD. It was bad enough when individual people would chatter incessantly on their 'hands-free' devices. Now there are pairs of them, taking it in turns to chatter incessantly on the street.

No really, this is a wonderful initiative. Can't cite, but read that roads and vehicular thoroughfares account for 30%+ of the constructed environment. That's a third of the space in our cities made to be openly hostile to people taking carbon-neutral, lardarse-busting modes of transportation.

It reminds me - a little - of shared space, an originally Dutch (as I remember) initiative to increase the civil utility of roads and pavements; by eliminating roadside barriers, pavement/road distinctions, and signage, drivers would stop acting as vehicular-operating automata and would instead be compelled to engage with their environment as they traversed it. Pedestrians would be less inconvenienced by traffic, encouraging more pedestrian traffic, and virtuous circle of increasingly human-oriented external spaces.

Nice flashback image, busitoth. I bet people were happy to see the lane expansion project back in the day.
posted by davemee at 2:21 AM on August 12, 2008

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