New York "Seals the Street" for a Car-free Summer Day

When New York’s “Summer Streets” program made its debut on August 9th, cyclists, roller skaters, joggers and people pushing baby trolleys went out into the car-free Manhattan streets at a leisurely mood. While approximately 1.5 million people swarmed into the street in support of the program, a small number of shop owners showed their opposition.

With a total length of 11 kilometers, the route from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, including some streets leading to Central Park and some heavy traffic off Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue, is subject to closure for three consecutive Saturdays in August from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. “It is thrill[ing] to have the unprecedented pleasure of biking down Central Avenue,” bike rider Stephen said.

In order to make it a success, Mayor Bloomberg summoned the cyclist and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and the musician from the Talking Heads to endorse the program. He announced that people and tourists may take a walk or ride a bicycle on the street, or engage in outdoor yoga, Japanese aikido, salsa dance, tai chi or hopscotch, and so on.

The event was made colorful by a great variety of activities such as the free bike helmet giveaway sponsored by the Department of Transportation, jogging groups sorted in different age brackets by New York Road Runners, and kid bike lessons offered by Bike New York. In addition, bike rental services were available along the street and if you had a bike, you could take advantage of bike repair services as well.

Mayor Bloomberg said the event is very meaningful because the street closure from morning to 1:00 pm on Saturdays causes little interruption to shop business and makes possible the return of roads from the hands of drivers to citizens. If the project works, he will consider expanding the project to other areas or making it a regular project.

There is a combination of praise and criticism from the business sector regarding the project. Some enterprises have successfully made the event a business opportunity. For instance, Eneslow, a Foot Comfort Center, set up a booth at Park Avenue providing free orthopedic assessment and instantly gained a great number of business deals.

Nevertheless, the banning of cars on the road affected some shop owners who do business on Saturday morning. A barber shop owner said there was a lack of customers who used to come by car. He further expressed his pessimism toward the prospect of “Summer Streets.”

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