The Fight for Car-Free Parks

New York City’s greatest parks were not built for cars. But in 1899, just 40 years after Central Park opened to the public, automobile traffic took over the loop drive.  

From then on, biking and walking in Central and Prospect Park meant smog, loud noise and dangerous conditions.  

"We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our parks with the same deference."

That was naturalist and author Edward Abbey’s take on why New York’s parks should be car-free. He wasn’t alone: Jane Jacobs, James Howard Kunstler, and even the parks’ designer Frederick Law Olmstead said that parks should be car-free.

In 1979, Transportation Alternatives took the words of these famous New Yorkers as our inspiration, and launched a campaign to make Central Park and Prospect Park car-free.  

After nearly four decades, 130,000 petition signatures and countless community meetings, rallies and marches, the City has announced that Central Park's loop drives north of 72nd Street and Prospect Park West Drive will be permanently car-free. Other areas will remain open to traffic.

Transportation Alternatives will continue its advocacy until the day when Edward Abbey’s commonsense idea becomes reality, and both parks are car-free, every day, all year, forever.

See a timeline.

We’ll let the photos tell the rest: