earth day 2016 nycSave the date for New York City’s 3rd annual Car-Free Day on Sat., April 21, the day before Earth Day 2018.

Two sections of Manhattan will be car-free zones between 9am and 3pm, as part of an initiative called “Car Free NYC”.

The car-free zones will be along Broadway between Union Square and Times Square, and in Washington Heights, along St. Nicholas Avenue, between 181st Street and 190th Street, turning those stretches into pedestrian-only and biycle-only thoroughfares.

Unlike other cities around the world where the Earth Day car-free day is growing with additional closed streets, NYC’s observance is shrinking, with a smaller footprint than last year, when there also were carfree sections of Astoria, Sunnyside, Brooklyn Heights, and Melrose.

Also, last year, when NYC Car-Free Day was on a Friday, NYC agencies and many businesses, schools, and hospitals encouraged employees to leave their cars at home, offering promotions and discounts for people who don’t drive to work, taking public transportation or biking to work instead.  Participants included Columbia University, Fed Ex, and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

And, Citi Bike and Water Taxi NYC offered free 24-hour passes on April 22.

Apparently, none of that is happening this year.

Car-free days helps raise awareness of  the benefits of going car-free, with fewer emissions, less stress and greater ease of mobility for all street users.

NYC also has a popular car-free Summer Streets program each August, when Park Avenue South and Park Avenue are closed to vehicles between the Brooklyn Bridge and Midtown.

According to Streetsblog, Car-Free Day has not gained traction in NYC because NYC Mayor de Blasio is not behind it, as is the case in other cities with mayoral support.

In Paris, private cars were banned in about a one-third of the city.  Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo keeps expanding the scope of car-free day, which covered 40 square miles of the central city in 2017.

The number of cars on Paris streets falls by as much as two-thirds on car-free days, and Hidalgo views the event as a way to communicate the potential for permanent changes to reduce traffic and change the transportation system.

According to Streetsblog, NYC Car-Free Day has not gained traction because NYC Mayor de Blasio is not behind it, as is the case in other cities with mayoral support.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a strong supporter.  Mayor de Blasio is not.


Streetsblog examples include Bogota, where the annual car-free day initiated by Mayor Enrique Peñalosa in 2000 is estimated to take 600,000 cars off the streets, as the whole city forgoes private motoring.

Recently Peñalosa implemented a variation on car-free day, setting aside a large network of streets where people can bike free from car-induced stress for eight days, as shown in the graphic above..

So why can’t NYC expand Car-Free Day, especially when it falls on a weekend?  Ask the mayor.

images courtesy Car Free NYC and Streetsblog