Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Streets, 2010

View of Park Ave. Tunnel at 42 Street
What would Manhattan become if the Department of Transportation (DOT) shut down one of the main arteries of the city for pedestrian and cyclist use? Would this bustling city become a serene, happy place? Or would it reek of inefficiency by backing up traffic on alternative streets and limit all moment on and off the island to trains? 

Park Ave. and 60 Street
 Saturday, I hopped on my bike, borrowed from my friend JB, to find out. NYC's DOT, along with a variety of sponsors, temporarily close Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to all vehicles and open it up to people on three consecutive Saturdays in August (in 2010 it was August 7, 14, and 21).

My ride through Central Park, to access Park Ave. was structured and seamless, easing into the weekend bike traffic to make the clockwise loop. I crossed over at 72 Street to join my friend Skye for a Summer Streets bike ride. We rode south on the wide avenue, which was sectioned into walking/running and cycling lanes. We came across a few stray rollerbladers that looked confused about which lane to take, but it was pretty cut-and-dry for most of the crowd.

View of the Dumpster Pools and Grand Central

The road rolled out beneath us, as we passed strollers, joggers, tourists and sidewalk vendors. The street felt roomy, although the streetlights (limited to every 3-4 streets) served as a reminder of the urban landscape we are a part of.

Some of the sponsors, which consistent of primarily health and fitness related companies, were even conducting free exercise classes in their booths.

The biggest treat came when Park Ave. narrowed into 2 lanes and we entered the tunnel that snakes around Grand Central Terminal. A peaceful quietness settled in and we all relished in the opportunity to take in the scene.

 Once we exited the tunnel the energy of the city picked up and we slowed down to avoid other cyclists and pedestrians. Just past 40 Street a set of 2 pools stood, created from new city dumpsters. Temporary platforms surrounded the dumpsters, which were painted bright red and covered with kids, pool toys, sunbathers and a lifeguard. The creativity of the pools made for a good photo opportunity and turn-around spot.

Skye and I took a leisure ride back to Harlem, taking a few minutes to stop for photos. Although, I must admit there were much better photos captured during the run of Summer Streets. I’m looking forward to ridding the entire length of Park Ave. next year. This year, we had another event to dash off to – all the way out at Brighton Beach. 

Flag in Park Ave. and 42 Street Tunnel

Park Ave. and 39 Street

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