1. Do you favor banning cars from the transverses?
Absolutely not. The four transverse roads were intended
to carry through-traffic as part of the park's original design.
Realizing that traffic would disrupt the park's tranquility, Central
Park's designers intentionally sank the transverses eight feet
beneath the park's surface. Regular traffic should be barred only
from the six-mile drive that loops around the park, as well as from
the connected crossing at 72nd Street, both of which were conceived
as a key element in the park designers' pastoral plan.
2. Won't banning cars from the park increase traffic
on adjacent streets, such as Fifth Avenue and Central Park West?
The impact on surrounding streets will hardly be noticeable,
and in fact a closing of the park drives to cars will result in an overall
reduction in traffic in the city.
First, only one-half of one percent of the people entering
New York's Central Business District on an average workday rely
on the park drives. Furthermore, history has shown that when roads are
closed, a large percentage of New York's car users find alternatives.
For example, until 1959, Fifth Avenue ran right through the middle of
Washington Square Park. Proposals to end Fifth at the park were met
with predictions of traffic catastrophe. But the actual result was less
traffic in the neighborhood around Washington Square. Similarly, when
portions of the West Side Highway collapsed in 1973, more than 90 percent
of the traffic that could no longer use the highway simply disappeared.
Motorists found ways to get to work that did not involve driving a car
the length of Manhattan.
A recent study of similar road closings around the
world demonstrates that a closing of the park to cars will result in
less traffic in the city. In "Traffic Impact of Highway Capacity
Reductions: Assessment of the Evidence" (MVA,
March 1998, Landor Publishing), researchers at a large British transportation
consulting firm assessed the traffic impact of more than 60 road closings
around the globe--from Germany to Japan. Some of the roads were
closed by design, others were shut down by acts of nature, such as earthquakes.
The researchers failed to find a single instance where a road
closing resulted in long-term traffic problems. In fact, the researchers
discovered that in almost all cases, much of the traffic that had formerly
used the closed roadway simply "disappeared"--drivers
either used very different routes or chose another form of transportation.
On average, one-quarter of the cars vanished, and in a few cases virtually
all the traffic evaporated. The researchers noted that the more alternative
forms of transportation that are available, the more traffic is likely
to "disappear." If Central Park were closed to cars, there
is an abundance of alternatives. Fifteen subway lines surround the park,
and 20 bus lines criss-cross or go around it.
It's a little-known fact that thanks to Marathon
Week and various Corporate Challenges and other park events, the Central
Park drive is already car-free on weekdays for about two weeks out of
the year. If the city can survive these two weeks without access to
the park drive, it can survive the other 50 as well.
Traffic problems are not solved by giving cars access
to the park drives. More roads for cars leads to more cars, which leads
to more congestion and pollution, not less.
3. Aren't the park drives safer due to the presence
of cars, particularly early in the morning and late at night?
There is no evidence that the presence of cars prevents
crime. The drives are already car-free three nights out of four (Fridays,
Saturdays and Sundays), as well as every weeknight from 7:00 - 10:00
p.m. and the entire week preceding the NYC Marathon--all
without any reported increase in crime.
If a crime were to commence, the occasional taxicab speeding by with a fare
at 30 miles an hour is unlikely to hear, much less stop for, a person in
distress. We know of no instance during the last 30 years when a driver has
stopped and come to the aid of a crime victim on the park drive. A
car-free park would certainly draw more runners, cyclists and other
recreational users to the drives, and these users would be far more likely
than a motorist to hear and respond to a cry for help.
Meanwhile, we already have ample proof that cars imperil
the life and limb of park users every day, making the park drives unsafe
rather than safe. In February 1998, two runners on the park drive were
seriously injured by an out-of-control taxicab. In 1997 in Brooklyn's
Prospect Park, which similarly allows car traffic, a 57-year old woman
was struck and killed by a van while riding her bike. There are also
many less serious accidents involving cars and park users, and between
park users competing for space in the narrow "recreational lane."
4. If cars are eliminated from the park drives, won't
speeding bicyclists pose an even greater threat to park users?
Once cars are eliminated from the park, the drive can
be restriped to separate users of different types and speeds--
a far safer alternative to the current helter-skelter situation. If
bicyclists, rollerbladers, or other users of the drive continue to pose
a hazard, officials can devise other solutions to the problem. But the
main point is that if bicyclists or other recreational users are a problem,
it is a separate one from the extreme hazard currently posed by the
close proximity of recreational users and automobiles weighing thousands
of pounds and emitting carbon monoxide and other pollutants. Between
1994 and 1997, motor vehicles killed 1,020 pedestrians and cyclists
in New York City. During that same period, five New Yorkers were killed
by cyclists. One of those deaths occurred on the Central Park drive
during car-free hours: a rollerblader executing a stunt turn crossed
into the path of a cyclist. If the drive had been striped to manage
recreational users rather than cars, such a tragedy might never have
5. If cars are banned, what incentive will the city
have to maintain the loop drive or clear away snow?
First, with thousands of cars no longer using it, wear
and tear on the drive will be sharply reduced. Second, the city will
still maintain the drive and keep it cleared to allow passage by emergency
and Parks Department vehicles.
6. What about access for emergency vehicles and
those who cannot walk?
We support continued access to the park drives for
police, emergency and sanitation vehicles on official business, as well
as authorized vehicle access for the handicapped, elderly and other
7. What's wrong with sharing the park with
Defenders of allowing cars in the park often argue
that the "park must be shared" by its many different "users." This argument
rests on a profound misconception of what a "park user" is. People who
drive through the park are indeed using the physical space occupied
by the park, but they are not using it as a park; rather, they
are using it as a traffic artery. Essentially, a portion of the park
is closed during those periods when its physical space is converted
from parkland to traffic artery. Moreover, the portion of the park that
is effectively closed extends well beyond the loop drive: the noise
and pollution generated by traffic shuts down much of the park as a
peaceful refuge from the stresses of the city.