Philadelphia received national attention when Mayor James Kenney closed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to vehicular traffic in March 2020. The move was meant to create a large, open, and safe space for pedestrians, cyclists, and individuals to walk, cycle, stroll while maintaining the COVID-19 six feet distancing.
MLK Drive, Philadelphia | Credit: Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia Schuykill River Trail, Philadelphia | Credit: Tom Gralish, Philadelphia Inquirer
The favorable response has inspired advocacy groups to ask the Mayor to close additional roads to create more open streets, including the outer lanes of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Neighborhood groups from Center City, Fitlers and Logan Square suggest the move will relieve congestion off the Schuylkill River Trail which is increasingly packed on nice days.
Another proposal has gained shape and momentum, dubbed “Recovery Streets” which calls to open streets, install calming measures, and create protected bike facilities. The initiative was created by four strong grass roots orgs: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, 5th Square, Feet First Philly and the Clean Air Council.
The need to rethink urban streets and roads during the pandemic is catching on throughout the country. Roads are closed to vehicle and filled with pedestrians and cyclists in other cities like New York, Boston, Oakland and Seattle.