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Debating Auto-Free Central Park

This is an excerpt of debates held on nyc.general in July 1994 regarding the removal of automobiles from Central Park. The preformatted text are quotes from other individuals while the standard text is by me.


dsr@delphi.com writes:

> I really think that closing off an essential artery during rush hour
> is just not using common sense.
Ah, but it is. The more capacity for cars, the more cars we get. NYC needs to reduce the number of cars being used here. The excessive use of automobiles increases shipping costs due to congestion, generates health problems due to air pollution, plus causes injuries from crashes.

Some fear that closing the loop road to cars permanently will displace the traffic problem elsewhere. I disagree. Traffic congestion on all the roads leading to/from the park will be significantly reduced. The most notable will be Central Park South, 7 Av and 6 Av. There will be more motorists on north/south roadways paralleling the park, but nothing catastrophic. Overall, the average level of service will not be changed. The Department of Transportation's study on this topic entitled Central Park Drives Alternate Use Study.


> It's certainly not what Olmsted and Vaux
> had in mind in their design for the Greensward, and to do so would be to
> short sightedly sacrifice a rational transportation medium.
Um, I'm confused by what you think Olmstead and Vaux didn't have in mind. Are you saying that they planned the loop drives be used as a major roadway? That is mistaken. There were no 6 Av and 7 Av connections in their plan, they were added many years later. Or, are you suggesting that the use as a highway is not what they intended?



adr5@namaste.cc.columbia.edu (Alex D Rodriguez) writes:

> You can add me to the list of people who also don't want the roads closed 
> to cars.  I'm a cyclist and a motorist, but I almost never drive my car in 
> the park.  It is because I am a cyclist that I want the roads open to 
> traffic.  When the roads are open to traffic there is more order in the 
> park.  

> Joggers tend to stay in the joggers lane 
On the upper loop, yeah. On the lower loop, joggers tend to be in the bike lane.


> and cyclist ride in the right direction
Yup.


> and bladers, what can I say, they are always a pain hogging up most of the
> lane no matter what the circumstances. 
Yeah. And when cars are in the park they are jammed into the recreation lane with runners, and cyclists.

Here's a paradox, if I ever saw one. The few hours before and after work are the most desirable times for people to go running, skating and riding. Unfortunately, that's the time the cars are allowed in, leaving only one lane for recreation.


> As soon as the park closes to traffic it's like all hell breaks loose.  
I guess that depends on how you look at it. Cars dictate what we must do on all the other streets in NYC. Central Park is a place to get away from that, to relax and enjoy life. For that reason, I don't think Central Park is the right place to be on training rides. Riverside Drive is a great place to ride. River Road in Palisades Interstate Park is another. Even better, where Riverside Dr ends, you just cross the George Washington Bridge and River Road begins... quite a distance to ride in parks with little cross traffic.


> The people are all over the road going in all directions pretty much
> oblivious to everybody else.
Once cars are kicked out permanently, the road can be restriped. Lanes can be allocated by mode or by speed, making things safer.


> I know that I have seen more accidents happen when the roads are closed than
> when they are open.  
Yeah. That's why I don't do the Bike New York (Five Borough Bike Tour). There are two types of accidents which prevail in Central Park: the largest being rollerbladers who don't know what they're doing, plus cyclists (both racers and rookies) who don't keep adequate passing distances while moving at great speed.


> Also I'm sure there are quite a few pedestrians who have had a lot of trouble
> trying to cross the roadway.  After the cars are gone nobody obeys the
> traffic signals.
Runners, skaters and cyclists alike ignore traffic signals all the time, whether cars are there or not. Running the light when no one is crossing is not a big deal, but if someone is trying to cross, it is. This is completely despicable. Enforcement is needed.


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Last updated: 4 April 1999