Story of a 26 Year Fight for 3.35 Miles of Car-Free Space

After an eight-week-long car-free trial this summer, Prospect Park is making it official: starting January 2, 2018, the park will be permanently car-free.

From July 17 through September 11th of this year, the city closed the park’s East Drive, usually open to cars during morning rush hours. And it was a popular move among the park’s A.M. recreational users, who, a press release notes, “outnumber cars more than 3-1 during morning hours”—about 1,000 joggers, walkers, and cyclists, compared to only 300 cars.

When the park reopened to morning traffic after Labor Day weekend, the city received petitions “with more than 1,100 signatures calling for the return of full-time car-free hours for the entire park.” Ask and ye shall receive—in this one case, at least, because today, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the park a soon-to-be car-free zone. “Restoring Prospect Park as a car-free oasis will improve the lives of the millions who use this park today and of generations to come,” De Blasio said in a statement.

“Joggers, cyclists, seniors, and families who love Prospect Park will all rejoice at today’s news,” added City Council Member Brad Lander. “Dogs, horses, squirrels—and I guess maybe even cows, too.”

How exactly the new policy will affect drivers is not yet totally clear, but preliminary results from this summer’s trial showed that drivers experienced minimal delays at worst, and most didn’t see any delay at all. It’s worth noting here that when the city permanently closed the park’s West Drive to traffic in 2015, DOT studies showed the most affected route saw an increase in travel time of less than a minute.

Still, the city plans to monitor traffic within the park once the policy takes effect, and “expects to adjust traffic-signal timing and make other changes as needed.”

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