Thousands of people hit the streets this past Saturday morning, taking over seven continuous miles of gloriously vehicle-free Park Avenue, Fourth Avenue, and Lafayette Street on their bikes, scooters, skateboards, and more, running in friendly packs, strolling with strollers—all taking advantage of this year’s Summer Streets program which, a 2020 cancellation, is now in its 12th year, albeit in abbreviated fashion.
“I’ve been coming out for Summer Streets since it first started,” said Vicky, an East Village resident. “I ride bikes every chance I get and should do about 14 miles today. Two Saturdays is not enough for this. I really missed it last year. I thought since it was outside they could have done it then but you know what? We have to take what we can get.”
As has been the case in recent years, there were four “Rest Stops” along the route, with corporate-sponsored giveaways, fitness classes, free bike repair, and educational installations like the Department of Transportation’s “Truck’s Eye View”, which shows how dangerous large vehicles are for pedestrians and cyclists. Gone were some of the more participatory installations, popular in pre-pandemic times, like the water slide, climbing wall, and zip line, replaced with performances by, for example, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus at Foley Square.
Vaccination tents were another new addition to the event this year.
“Summer Streets is great, it’s great to have it back,” said Betsy, who lives on the Upper East Side. “It’s been a lot of fun. I got up this morning at 7:00, rode down to the bridge and back with my husband and then I saw the bands that were performing [here at 52st Street] and came back out to listen to them.”
When asked if she thought two Saturdays a year was enough, she said “I don’t know if we could do it more often, because of traffic disruption and stuff, but it would be nice. I mean, in Mexico City they have it every weekend, and that’s a crowded city too, and they make it work, so I don’t know why we can’t do it here.”
Summer Streets will happen again next Saturday, August 14, from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., running up Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, and Park Avenue from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 72nd Street.