Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that he’s committed to closing up to 100 miles of streets to promote social distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For weeks the mayor has resisted calls from transportation advocates and elected officials to transform swaths of the city’s streets into havens for pedestrians and cyclists.
And now, under an agreement with the City Council, de Blasio will open up at least 40 miles of streets in May. The goal in the coming months is to open of 100 miles.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced a bill last week to open up 75 miles of asphalt. On Monday, the mayor said,
“The question has been coming up more and more, ‘When it gets warmer what is it going to look like?
“Everything I saw in parks, but beyond, made me feel we had to help people continue to be able to social distance and that a lot of the nexus would be around the parks as it got warmer.”
The City Council said it will work with the city to select streets up to 2.5 miles of “widened sidewalks”; and up to 10 miles of protected bike lanes. City Hall says the new bike lanes will mainly be focused in the city’s “commercial core” and that sidewalks with high pedestrian traffic could be expanded by placing concrete barriers to extend those spaces out into parking lanes or lanes of traffic, depending on the location.
City Council Speaker Johnson said,
“As the weather gets nicer and this unprecedented crisis stretches on longer, we need to do everything in our power to keep our neighbors safe and healthy
This announcement is a great starting point for the ongoing conversation about how we share our public spaces during this pandemic and in a post-coronavirus future.”
The open streets plan comes two days after the New York Times’ editorial board urged city officials to create public spaces for New Yorkers to safely venture outside during the summer, and after Johnson warned that he would bypass the mayor and work with Cuomo on an open streets plan if the mayor did not take action.
Joe Cutrufo with Transportation Alternatives said,
“If we’re going to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, we need space to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.
The devil is in the details, but it’s good to see the mayor is coming around on this.”
(Photograph, Ruben Natal-San Miguel; via Curbed NY)