Pedestrian traffic only: Mayor permanently exiles cars from Prospect Park

Pedestrian traffic only: Mayor permanently exiles cars from Prospect Park
Associated Press / Julie Jacobson

This ban is a walk in the park!

Mayor DeBlasio on Monday permanently banned cars inside Brooklyn’s Backyard beginning in January, claiming bikers, joggers, and nature-lovers deserve a sanctuary from the hazards and racket of the morning rush.

“Restoring Prospect Park as a car-free oasis will improve the lives of the millions who use this park today and of generations to come,” Hizzoner said.

Downtown-bound motorists are currently allowed on the meadow’s East Drive from 7 to 9 am on weekdays, and drivers who rely on the route have until Jan. 2 to suss out a detour. The indefinite exile follows a summer-long ban on traffic from the road, during which the city’s transportation department studied the embargo’s effects on surrounding streets.

Analysts are still reviewing data from the park’s completely-car-free trial, but DeBlasio moved forward with the prohibition claiming the temporary ban’s effect on traffic was negligible and that enough people supported it to give drivers the boot.

The mayor axed Coney Island–bound vehicles from the park’s West Drive in 2015, and his transit experts said the fallout from that closure — a roughly 1-minute delay on alternate routes — is comparable to what East-Drive commuters can expect when the thoroughfare shutters.

Transportation department honchos estimate that the park’s early-bird bikers and pedestrians outnumber its motorists by roughly three to one, and more than 1,000 park-lovers signed a petition demanding a permanent vehicle ban following the summer-long embargo.

And once cars are gone for good, park-users who shied away from the East Drive during the morning rush will flock to the meadow, according to a local bike advocate and mom.

“I know a lot of kids who bike to school, but they don’t typically go through the park because of the cars,” said Hilda Cohen, a member of pro-cyclist group Kidical Mass who lives in Fort Greene with her 15 and 12-year-old. “It will have an impact on so many people.”

Popular support for exiling vehicles from Prospect Park was not always in such high demand and, as recently as 2008, ardent pro-bike groups struggled to advocate for a prohibition. But the city has become friendlier to cyclists, and this summer’s ban on cars from the East Drive — the first time since the invention of the automobile that motorists couldn’t cruise the park — in addition to children-led anti-car rallies and efforts by radar-gun-toting bicycle advocates showed the time was right to evict drivers once and for all, according to Cohen.

“Ten years ago this was a small campaign. Now, there’s really no opposition,” she said.

And even some car-users welcomed the ban, according to one driver, who said she often frequents the park without her vehicle and welcomed the mayor’s announcement.

“I’m a driver and I also ride my bike in the park,” said Kate U., who lives in Ditmas Park. “I’m happy to hear the news.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.