On Saturday, April 22, New Yorkers will be forced out of their cars. While the city is already one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly metropolises, Manhattan is giving more urban space over to people to walk and cycle in honor of Earth Day, as Gothamist reports.
A full 30 blocks of Broadway, one of the city’s major thoroughfares, will be closed to cars, trucks, and buses that Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s a major upgrade from last year’s Earth Day celebration when only four blocks of the street went car-free. The city’s other boroughs will also close some roads to cars for the day, though none of the other areas affected are as large as the Manhattan closure.
It’s a move in line with New York City’s plans to improve traffic safety and make the city more friendly towards bikes and pedestrians. This isn't the only time of the year pedestrians get to wander through city streets; New York also closes around seven miles of roads to vehicle traffic for three Sundays each August for an event called Summer Streets. But New York City is behind the curve when it comes to car-free days.
Several European cities, like Brussels, already participate in an annual car-free day, and many are moving to make pedestrian takeovers of roads more regular (though many don’t count city buses as cars for these purposes). Madrid’s Gran Vía will be closed to private cars in the next few years, according to plans from the city’s mayor, along with 24 of the city’s other major downtown streets. Oslo plans to eliminate private cars from its city center by 2019.
In September, Paris closed off more than 400 miles of its roads to car traffic, excluding public buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles. As part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s efforts to reduce pollution from cars, several areas of the city center will soon be permanently closed to cars, while other roads are closed semi-regularly, like the Champs-Élysées, which is pedestrian-only on the first Sunday of every month.