Where Car-Free Streets Won Out

While some open streets experiments have met with backlash from community members, others were so successful they led to permanent changes.

1 minute read

November 22, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

People sitting at outdoor dining tables next to bike lane protected by delineators and three-story buildings in Dublin, Ireland

Claire Whitehead / Capel Street, Dublin, Ireland

An article by Maylin Tu in Next City expounds on the benefits of car-free streets, which got a shot in the arm during the Covid-19 pandemic and, in some cities, are having lasting impact.

Tu lists the common arguments against open streets and the evidence debunking them, going on to describe four cities where open streets experiments are still going strong. “Car-free advocates would say that as greenhouse gas emissions and traffic violence go down, happiness and connection go up — it’s hard to connect with your neighbors while ensconced in two tons of steel.”

The four featured projects: San Francisco’s John F. Kennedy Drive, which winds through Golden Gate Park and has been closed to cars on Sundays since 1967; Griffith Park Drive in Los Angeles, which was closed to cars after the death of a cyclist in April; 34th Avenue in New York City, which, although not permanently closed to vehicle traffic, hosts a vibrant community of events and classes during daytime hours; and Dublin’s Capel Street, now the longest car-free street in Ireland.

Tu points out that well before the pandemic, cities like Paris, Bogotá, and São Paulo were experimenting with projects like car-light or car-free streets, open streets events, and parklets, but the success of pandemic-era programs has, in some cases, accelerated efforts to reclaim public right-of-way from cars.

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