For the fourth year in a row, the City of New York transformed some of its most heavily trafficked streets into a network of pleasant pedestrian plazas and recreational byways. Inspired by modern public space and urban design projects such as Paris Plage, Summer Streets, which ran for three consecutive Saturday this past August 2011, showcased New York’s most important infrastructural elements, emphasizing the city’s walkability and connectivity of neighborhoods and districts. Stretching from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, the route linked some of New York’s most iconic neighborhoods and landmarks, all while providing a car-free route for pedestrians, cyclists, and visitors to explore the city. Along the way, visitors had the opportunity to partake in the many activities and classes offered at the various rest stops, such as exercise classes, theatre performances, bike repair, or food and wine tastings.
The now annual event is all part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) greater effort to promote non-motorized transport and bring pedestrians into the streets. As Mayor Bloomberg and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan noted in 2008 at a press conference announcing the event, Summer Streets would constitue a “true application of goals for a sustainable future under the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 … and the DOT’s strategic plan” and reinforce the city’s people-focused urban planning initiatives. Mayor Bloomberg also added how the event would become a New York event as pleasurable for residents such as “strolling the Coney Island boardwalk” or “listening to the Philharmonic in the park.”
Surprisingly, the City was able to market the event using minimal social media practices, relying on the City’s existing Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the events rather than creating independent accounts. The success and popularity of the past events, combined with marquee corporate sponsors and partnerships, helped to spread the word and make the 2011 event well-publicized and attended. Each year, the festival has become bigger and better, attracting more people, classes, and notoriety. Furthermore, Summer Streets has more than accomplished its goal of bringing the people to the streets and showing New Yorkers and visitors alike how walkable and versatile the city can be.
Do you think Summer Streets and similar programs are steps in the right direction towards creating more pedestrian friendly and sustainable cities?