More car free hours in the park - after the holidays

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Anonymous's picture

"November 22, 2004
Driving Hours in Central Park to Be Reduced After Holidays

he city's Parks and Transportation departments announced yesterday that they would limit traffic in Central Park by closing four car entrances and prohibiting cars for all but seven hours each day.

The six-mile roadway that loops through the park is now open to cars 16 hours each weekday, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. and during the afternoon rush. Beginning Jan. 3, cars will be prohibited from dusk until dawn, and allowed only from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, said Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner. Rules banning cars on the weekends will remain in effect.

The new rules will not affect the transverses at 65th, 79th, 85th and 97th Streets.

Next Monday, the city will close park entrances and exits at West 77th Street, West 90th Street, East 90th Street and East 102nd Street. Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park, said the asphalt would be torn up and likely replaced with grass and other vegetation.

Mr. Benepe said the new traffic restrictions would reduce exhaust fumes, accidents and the number of times cars clip the park's iron and stone fixtures. He said the limits would be a boon for early-morning joggers and bicyclists who now dodge taxis and commuters.

""It'll be quieter,"" Mr. Benepe said at a news conference in the park. ""It'll be safer.""

Before the hours for cars in the park are reduced, however, they actually will be expanded for, as in past years, the holiday season traffic plan. From next Monday to Jan. 2, the park drives will be open to cars 24 hours a day, except for weekends and holidays.

But the west side of the roadway will be open only to cars carrying two or more people. Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, said the high-occupancy-vehicle restrictions were only temporary, but could be extended if they are successful in reducing traffic. Park speed limits have already been lowered to 25 miles per hour from 30 miles per hour. The new regulations will not clog traffic on adjacent streets, Ms. Weinshall said.

Some joggers and cyclists in the park applauded the news yesterday while others said that cars should be banned altogether. But taxi drivers and taxi owners' associations have complained that the new regulations will prevent them from taking a much-used shortcut when Fifth Avenue or Central Park West are clogged with traffic.

The move to sweep traffic from Central Park goes back to the mid-1960's, when groups of environmentalists and Upper West Siders staged mass bicycle rides and demanded that the city ban cars on weekends.

""Were not going to rest until we've got a completely car-free park as it was intended to be,"" said Ken Coughlin, a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates fewer cars and more bicycles

Anonymous's picture
bike man (not verified)

I have doubts that people will ever drive 25mph or less, but it is a nice thought.
And if they bumped the evening close up to 6pm, I think I would almost be happy.

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Nothing more than a token gesture

I think this move by the city should be seen for what it is - nothing more than a cynical token gesture to appease the campaigners for a car-free park. And it fails to even do that. Does the Bloomburg administration take the campaign for a car-free park seriously? No. It was only when he came to office that the city started opening the park for holiday traffic from the period from Thanksgiving to just after New Year.

And how is the rule for the west side of the park being only open to cars with two or more occupants going to be enforced? Not at all in all probability.

Anonymous's picture
hannah (not verified)

Hooray for this incremental progress, but as Ken C. said there's still work to be done.

Does anyone know if the 10:00-3:00 exemption allowing cars in the southeastern part of the park will remain? It is not counted among the weekday car hours said to be in place currently.


Anonymous's picture
Joe Soda (not verified)
idiots in mass rides

"""The move to sweep traffic from Central Park goes back to the mid-1960's, when groups of environmentalists and Upper West Siders staged mass bicycle rides and demanded that the city ban cars on weekends.""

See what happens when idiots on bicycles have mass rides and cause trouble?"

Anonymous's picture
frank (not verified)

it takes 40 years to get something done?

Anonymous's picture
Chris O (not verified)
sometimes it takes 40 years

but not this time. You may notice that the park currently has a fair number of car-free hours. These car-free hours apparently, according to the paper of record, are traced to protests of large groups of cyclists in the 60's. Before 1966 there were no car-free hours, but since then there have been. And since then, advocates have been trying to expand these hours, with mixed success.

Joe's comments about mass rides may have been referring to certain cranks on this message board that have disdain for Critical Mass as they see it as counterproductive to cyclist rights.

Anonymous's picture
Ivy (not verified)

"Just because someone doesn't agree with you, that doesn't make the person a ""crank"".

In response to an earlier post, I don't think that this is a token gesture by any means. The City is closing numerous entrances, reducing the speed limit, increasing the car-free hours, and instituting an HOV policy. Any one of these would be a significant victory; taken together they are a huge step in the right direction.

As Hannah rightly points out, there is still work to be done. But at least now we know that the Bloomberg administration is willing to play ball."

Anonymous's picture
Chris O (not verified)

Ivy - You are right that just because someone disagrees with me does not make them a crank. But that does not mean they are not cranks, either. And considering the various other possibilities, I thought that this was the most appropriate word in the cycling context.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Now's the time!

What is exciting about the present moment is that the demands of cyclists (of all stripes, cranks included) appear to be reaching, uh, critical ma--Oh all right tipping point.

Which goes to show you: the squeaky crank gets the grease.

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
squeaky crank gets the grease - maybe yes, maybe not

Carol, I appreciate the irony of your comments. Much like Critical Mass, as to whether crank (tapers) get greased or not is another contentious debate among wrenches, pros and hacks included.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Hobson's choice


You're right, it was an imperfect metaphor. But it was either that or a cliche. Ain't life full of compromises?

Reviewing a schoolmate's writing yesterday, I had to point out that a building that he had described as being in the shadow of the trade center was actually south of the towers and therefore could never have been in its shadow. For a minute he looked like he wanted to strangle me. I guess I could have let that one go.

Anonymous's picture
Frank (not verified)
Cautious optimism

Fewer cars in Central Park will ultimately be a better thing. I hope that DOT (or whatever the road maintenance body) will continue to maintain the paved roads and not see the reduction in vehicular traffic as less reason to put any priority on condition of the park roads. True--fewer vehicles and time spent means less wear, however one or two bad freezes/thaws and the roads show it. Anyone have any inside on this aspect of this recent news?

Anonymous's picture
jesse (not verified)
A little Progress

Though my years of living in this City have taught me, among other things, that you can never be too cynical, I must say, I consider this a very postive step in the right direction after years of inaction by previous administrations.

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