New York City's Summer Streets

New York City, New York
Source: New York City, New York


Streets in New York City are shared by a number of users, including cars, buses, taxis, bicyclists, and pedestrians. However, congestion and potential traffic dangers make it difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the city's streets.


Improvements in bicycle infrastructure, combined with rising fuel costs, from 2000 to 2010 have resulted in unprecedented spikes in bicycle commuting, and improvements to pedestrian facilities have increased safety. But the need to tackle problems such as inadequate public spaces and insufficient amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists culminated in a commitment to create a livable community. In 2007, New York City released PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, a long-range, comprehensive plan to address economic, social, and environmental concerns facing the city's five boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. NYC DOT commissioned a consultant to conduct public life surveys around the city to determine what was missing from NYC sidewalks and streets, which was later released in the report World Class Streets: Remaking New York City's Public Realm. According to the count results and surveys, several key types of public space needed improvement. In the report, the department outlined an overall approach called the World Class Streets initiative. Included under this initiative are a number of new programs and guidelines that respond directly to overall problems and individual issues on specific streets including Summer Streets.


The New York City Summer Streets program is modeled on similar initiatives in cities around the world. In Bogot�ƒยก, Colombia, the presumed birthplace of these types of car-free streets programs, 70 miles (113 kilometers) of street are closed to traffic every Sunday and on major holidays for a weekly event called recro-vias, which brings residents and visitors into the streets for fun and physical activity. In most places, this kind of program is part of a larger livable streets movement that aims to make streets more welcoming to nonmotorized transportation.

New York City began experimenting with a car-free streets program in August 2008. For three consecutive Saturdays, the city closed a 6.9-mile (11-kilometer) stretch of road from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. The Summer Streets program continued in the summer of 2009 and 2010. The program encourages more sustainable forms of transportation such as biking and walking and free bike and roller skate rentals and helmet fittings are offered. The Summer Streets program also promotes recreation, health, and community involvement. Along with walking and biking, exercise and dance classes take place on the streets. The 2010 Summer Streets program featured temporary swimming pools for the community to use.

NYC DOT worked with the City of New York Police Department to ensure that the chosen route would have a minimal impact on traffic. The department marketed the program as a new way to enjoy the streets of New York, using the motto, "Your city, your streets, your playground."


An estimated 150,000 people enjoyed the three 2008 Summer Streets road closings. Positive feedback from users, area residents, and news media encouraged NYC DOT to host Summer Streets annually. In 2009, the NY Metro Chapter of the International Special Events Society recognized the success of Summer Streets with a Best Green Initiative award. The department partnered with business improvement districts and neighborhood associations to host similar events in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and expanded the dates and locations in 2010

More Information

NYC Summer Streets:

Sunday Parkways: Helping Minority Communities Connect to Bicycling and Walking:

Sunday Ciclovia: "Bike. Walk. Dance. Breathe.":

Sunday Parkways Programs:

PBIC page on Car Free Events:

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