Central Park is Officially Car-Free; Advocates Celebrate as the Last Vehicle Exits


Photo by Richard Robbins.

Starting on Wednesday, cars will no longer be allowed in Central Park, the first time in 119 years that that’s been true.

There are some exceptions — police and parks department cars will be allowed in, and the transverse roads that head to and from the Upper East Side will still be open — but the main loop road will no longer allow vehicles.

The last car to drive through the park was a ’66 Mustang piloted by Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. Bicyclists trailed behind it, as seen in the photo below by Richard Robbins.

NEWS | 45 comments | permalink
    1. John Smith says:

      Those exceptions are pretty significant, in my recent experience. Notable level of traffic from parks and police vehicles after dark on the main park loop, traveling at speeds that seemed unsafe, given visibility level and the number of people walking with dogs.

    2. Charles says:

      FINALLY!

    3. Judy Harris says:

      Will the delivery trucks, like Fedex, which pull into the 85th Street entrance, still park there while they make local deliveries?

      • EricaC says:

        That actually seems like a good solution – not too much incursion on the park, not blocking traffic, people can get their packages.

    4. michael says:

      Love this!!!!! Thanks for posting WSR, I had no idea this happened.

      NOW, could we please do something about the bikes racing against the lights through the pedestrian crossings.

    5. Zulu says:

      Hurray!

    6. UWS Dad says:

      Hooray! Now the roads will be even more crowded and the Central Park drives will be free for cyclists to mow down pedestrians!

    7. Stef Lev says:

      Pedestrians Beware!

      Unfortunately, this puts more cars on the streets and gives the bikers in the Park more license to ride without stopping for pedestrians.

    8. Arjan says:

      Does anyone know if the markings on the roads will also be adapted? Because although cars haven’t been allowed in the north part of Central Park for some time, still almost half of the road is reserved for cars according to the markings.

      Most people (cyclists/pedestrians) just ignore these markings, but if that part of the markings is ignored, also the other part of the markings will be ignored. Leading to cyclists on the part reserved for pedestrians (left side of the road), cyclists going against traffic, cyclists and pedestrians swarming over the complete width of the road.

      I think it offers a great opportunity to rearrange the road configuration in Central Park, clearly giving cyclists and pedestrians their own space, which hopefully results then in less friction between the two.

    9. NYC10023 says:

      Thank God
      It was so peaceful & quiet in the park this morning.

    10. Gerald Lynas says:

      Now maybe the Park can have 2-way traffic on the circle drives so that we don’t have to cycle south to go north or visa versa.

      • LetUsCrossThrough says:

        Seconded. And complete bike paths across the park (one for each transept) Bike riders who want to CROSS the park rather than just loop the loop are still forced to risk life and limb daily, hugging the 7-inch, pothole and grating-enhanced “shoulder” next to buses and trucks and impatient drivers,

      • Zulu says:

        That’s a great idea!

    11. Susan Epler says:

      AMEN!!

    12. Stef Lev says:

      Pedestrians Beware!

      This will result in more cars on the street and emboldened bikers who will not yield to pedestrians in the Park!

    13. JudY G. says:

      HOORAY!

    14. Reasonable People Can Disagree says:

      One of the few good things about cars in the park is that vehicular traffic provides extra eyes to detect/deter criminal behavior.

      Will be interesting to see if removal of cars affects incidence of crime.

    15. FJNYC says:

      Cars stop at red lights.
      Cyclists do not.
      How will pedestrians be able to safely cross the street along the Park Drive aka “the loop?”

      • ginobrino says:

        Pedestrians don’t stop at red lights either.
        Let’s just all be careful out there.

        • FJNYC says:

          More pedestrians are killed and seriously injured by bikers than the other way around.
          Are you suggesting that cyclists should Not have to stop at red lights?
          That pedestrians trying to cross the drive – elderly, parents with toddlers or strollers in hand should just hope for a break in cyclists and try to run across the street – hoping they don’t get hit?

    16. Jeff says:

      Do they have plans to rip up the roads and put in dirt or clay?

    17. Sandra Gleich says:

      Now, about those bicycles on the footpaths . . .

    18. thomas welsh says:

      Except for the many roads that go across it, yeah “car free”

    19. PaulCons says:

      Hooray, I have lived to see this happen!

      But a caution… one big issue remains. Folks walked along and clogging up that loop road… the ONLY pathway where bicyclists and boarders “legally” go (there is a mostly marked pathway on that loop for joggers). There is only ONE 6 mile loop like this, but tons and tons of walking space on pathways that bikers and boardeers are not supposed to ride. I have seen one family that had something like half a dozen small children spread across the entire roadway. The side pathways for walkers were totally empty.

      Let’s leave that loop road for wheeled folks and joggers.

    20. BillyNYC says:

      This is wonderful NEWS! I been fighting this since 1969!!!
      NOW REDESIGN THE PARK DRIVE INTO BIKE/WALKING PATHS AND GARDENS. !!!

    21. Fern Wishman says:

      Wow!fabulous! It would be great too if the racers and the tourists were more considerate of the regular riders who live here and want to enjoy the park.

    22. Ethan says:

      Great news.
      Now we begin work on the Central Park bike ban.

    23. AC says:

      With greater number of people visiting and using the Park, expect Bikes to be next within the next 25 years. You read it here first in the West Side Rag!

    24. Michal says:

      I am okay with this change. But I wish in return we could get the horses back. Central Park was much better with horses.

    25. KL185 says:

      I’ve read in The Times and elsewhere that this applies only to park roads south of 72nd Street.

    26. Kathleen says:

      It would be grand to bring back equestrians and horse stables….a pleasing historic tradition of Central Park.

      • Zulu says:

        I’ve seen equestrians riding their horses on the bridle path and not just the NYPD. Although it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. It does look really neat and fun.

    27. Filatura says:

      Lovely in theory, not so lovely for pedestrians, parents with little kids, old people with canes and walkers, etc. The second photo in the WSR coverage is a foretaste of the future: bicycles spread across the entire roadway, disregarding marked lanes. What a gift for the Tour de France wannabes who ruin the park roads for the rest of us.

      • EagleEye says:

        Filatura, Put your glasses on. The picture shows no bikes in the running lane. Bikes are where they should be.

    28. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      It was so nice this morning not having cabs zooming through the park. A park is supposed to be a refuge from traffic. While I disagree with Mayor de Blasio on most things, I have to give him credit for this decision.

    29. Jimbo says:

      Car free–except for the fact that the Conservancy has turned the park into a giant parking lot for its vehicles.

    30. Paul Mills says:

      What about some sort of fencing at pedestrian crosswalks – with the bikers required to walk bikes around.

      An do it in Riverside park too –

    31. Q613 says:

      Great news. Question: Does anyone have statistics on accidents/injuries in CP? Car hits pedestrian, bike kits pedestrian, car hits bike, etc.? Anecdotally, it would appear that bikes cause far more injuries and accidents than cars. Interested in the numbers.

    32. Nick Bacon says:

      Does the banning of motor vehicles in Central Park also apply to the 75% of pedicabs that have electric motors?

      No motor vehicles should mean exactly that.

      • FJNY says:

        Great Question:
        Pedi cabs are treacherous!
        Guessing they will not be banned.
        The owners have a strong lobby and the park is probably their main source of business.
        They show little regard for bikes or pedestrians and police do nothing about the illegal motorized pedicabs.

    33. Nick Bacon says:

      Does the ban on motor vehicles include the pedicabs that have electric motors?