On June 27, Central Park, New York City’s 2.5-mile-long green space, will officially go car-free. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the news, saying: “This park was not built for automobiles. It was built for people. People walking, people biking–that’s what this park will now be about.”
It may seem that this monumental announcement is the result of a recent trend–Prospect Park in Brooklyn went car-free in January, and San Francisco has been toying with the idea of closing Golden Gate Park to automobiles.
But the fight for a car-free Central Park extends back over 50 years, and its culmination is the result of sustained advocacy work that began in the 1960s when civic leaders, including future mayor Ed Koch, organized demonstrations that eventually resulted in limits on car traffic through the park. And Transportation Alternatives, New York’s cycling and pedestrian advocacy nonprofit, has been pushing for a car-free Central Park since 1979–as recently as this January, advocates held a ride through the park to show that it’s made for biking and walking. Here are some photos from the years of activism.
It’s important to note that de Blasio’s reasoning–that Central Park, built in 1857, was not designed with cars in mind–should extend to the rest of his streets policies. As one Twitter user pointed out, New York City’s street grid predates the car as well, but the Mayor has been reluctant to limit automobile traffic on the city streets, despite the sustainability and safety benefits that would accrue, and despite the fact that cities like Oslo and London are well on their way to eliminating cars on some streets.
TransAlt will host a celebration ride for a car-free Central Park on May 1, and will continue to advocate for fewer cars on city streets.