Transportation Alternatives & Bike New York: Convert Streets to Social Distancing-Compliant Open Spaces

Statement of Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris and Bike New York Director of Communications Jon Orcutt:
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

“As we heard Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio say this weekend, New York City’s parks and sidewalks are filled with people trying to get some exercise and fresh air -- so full that it is proving difficult to adhere to social distancing guidelines in some places. 

In response, Governor Cuomo called for the City of New York to “Get creative. Open streets to reduce the density.” He demanded a plan within 24 hours and, in an effort to support the City’s efforts, we shared the below opportunities with the Department of Transportation. 

We applaud the governor for demanding a fast turnaround to provide more open space and we thank City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other elected leaders for amplifying his call.

As a city, we are navigating through an unprecedented moment, and the Department of Transportation (DOT) is no exception. Their work is challenging even without a pandemic, and we acknowledge the tireless efforts of Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her team to keep New York City moving, and thank them for constructing the forthcoming pop-up bike lanes on Smith Street in Brooklyn and Second Avenue in Manhattan. 

In support of efforts to open some streets exclusively to pedestrians, cyclists, and emergency and essential vehicles, Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York have shared these suggestions, archetypes of streets which we believe could provide value to the city at this critical time, with the DOT: 

  • Zones around hospitals, with vehicular access only for emergency vehicles and hospital staff

  • The New York City Marathon route

  • Streets routinely closed for Summer Streets and the annual Car-Free Day

  • NYC Street Fair Routes (2020 calendar here)

  • Streets with robust block associations and histories of block parties

  • Streets typically closed as part of the Play Streets program

  • Streets in neighborhoods not within walking distance of a park (map here)

The DOT may also consider streets that lack directly adjacent commercial or residential land uses, which may be the most straightforward options for meeting Governor Cuomo’s call to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist densities, such as:

  • 73rd Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard within Cunningham Park

  • Forest Park Drive

  • 164th Street within Kissena Park

  • Shore Boulevard within Astoria Park 

  • Crotona Avenue and Claremont Avenue within Crotona Park 

  • Jackie Robinson Parkway

  • East Fordham Road between the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo

  • Mosholu Parkway in Van Cortlandt Park

  • Bay Street in Red Hook

  • Lorimer Street within McCarren Park

  • Margaret Corbin Drive within Fort Tryon Park 

  • Roadways within Latourette Park

There is a wealth of street space in the five boroughs that could be converted into social distancing-friendly places for people. Should the City require more hands to turn these proposals into a reality, Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York and our partners stand ready to enlist a corps of volunteers to help construct and maintain these car-free corridors. New York City bicyclists stepped up in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and we know they will rise to the occasion again.

We thank DOT for its efforts to date, and welcome the chance to advance this mission together.”