On Earth Day, April 22nd, the Department of Transportation is closing some main streets around NYC to all non-essential vehicular traffic and sponsoring programming all day long in each of these areas. The initiative, Car Free NYC, promotes modes of transportation more sustainable than driving, such as public transit, walking, and biking. Care-free zones will include parts of Broadway in Manhattan and other prominent streets in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn (see below). The closure will not only cut emissions, noise, and congestion, but also make streets a more navigable pedestrian space. The purpose of this initiative is to expose more people to life without cars, even for just one day.
Transportation is one of NYC’s leading greenhouse gas emission sources, so Car Free NYC is a part of getting the city more and more accustomed to the rewards of leaving cars out of their daily lifestyles. Broadway, for example, produces traffic jams due to the triangular intersections its diagonality it creates relative to Manhattan’s grid. Not only does city traffic produce noise, pollution, and spatial congestion, but it also causes loss of work time and fatalities.
Other world cities have been employing similar initiatives. Paris has its own car free day, and measured 20-40% reductions in nitrogen dioxide across different parts of the city on their car free day. Bogotá, Colombia, has been celebrating a car free day every year since 2000. Since 2007, Jakarta, Indonesia, since its first car free day in 2007, has adopted car free Sunday every week of the year.
This idea could expand to more areas: The Department of Transportation is considering making a block of Broadway, between 24th and 25th streets, a “shared space” between cars and pedestrians. Similarly, a coalition of citizens and advocates is pushing a plan called the 14th Street PeopleWay in Manhattan to help accommodate commuters during the L Train shutdown. This sort of initiative has already been enacted by former Mayor Bloomberg, who closed much Times Square to vehicular traffic in 2009.
Car Free NYC, Specific Streets
Broadway from Times Square to Union Square
St. Nicholas Avenue from 181st to 190th street
Eagle Avenue in the Bronx from 161st to 163rd street
Montague Street at Court Street in Brooklyn
Woodside Avenue from 75th to 77th street
Shore Boulevard between Ditmars and Astoria Boulevard