Summer program fills carless city streets
The sound of hundreds of bicyclists, joggers, skaters and walkers replaced the bustle of traffic along Park Avenue and Broadway on Saturday as hundreds of people took to the vehicle-free boulevards during the fifth annual Summer Streets program in Manhattan.
The event, organized by the city Department of Transportation, turns the route from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park into one big bike lane for the first three Saturdays of August, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Five stops along the route give people a chance to drink some water, fix their bikes or engage in group yoga or dancing lessons.
"It's wonderful, they should do it more often," said cyclist Christopher Perras, 37, a marketer from Brooklyn.
Summer Streets also installed a zip line next to the Brooklyn Bridge and an artificial rock-climbing wall at Broadway and Spring Street, which drew scores of enthusiastic climbers.
The program has grown in popularity since it was launched, according to people who have been attending the events for years.
"First time I volunteered in 2009, there were about half as many people," said Paul Po, 27, an event volunteer from Brooklyn.
The program is part of the DOT's Sustainable Streets 2009 initiative, which also includes plans for new pedestrian spaces, improved crosswalks and 90 miles of new bike lanes throughout the city.
DOT officials didn't immediately return calls asking for comment about the program.
Summer Streets makes New York "more livable and fosters community," Perras said. "There is too much focus on cars -- the streets are for people."
C. Bay Milincq on initial and name, 32, and his girlfriend Audrey Castillo, 31, welcomed the chance to meet people without traffic and noise.
"It's awesome, you're riding next to a stranger; but you can hold a conversation," said Milin. "Somehow, the bike transcends social awkwardness."
Castillo said she was surprised at how accessible the city was by bike.
"I didn't realize how quickly I can get from the bridge to Central Park."
Summer Streets will be held again Aug. 11 and 18.