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Last week, we made the case that Martin Luther King Jr. Drive should be closed to motor vehicle traffic and open to people who can get outside while keeping proper distance between themselves and others. Given the recent pandemic and orders to not leave your home other than for essential activities (exercise being one), and the order to stay six feet away from others, it seemed like a no-brainer. 

Many people agreed, as did the Philadelphia government, and on Friday, March 20th at 8pm, the city closed the street for the foreseeable future.

This was a good move. The trails along Kelly Drive and MLK Drive were getting crowded, as bicycling has increased 471 percent on the trails, when compared to this time last year. Opening MLK Drive to people getting around without a motor vehicle was a way to make sure people were able to get exercise, safely.

When we called on the city to close MLK, we didn’t believe it should be a one-and-done situation. As we noted, “Once MLK is closed, we believe it will be important to shut down more streets, around the city, to motor vehicle traffic. All neighborhoods are effected by the pandemic. All neighborhoods should have access to safe travel and recreation.”

Given the success of MLK Drive, we are working on a list of additional streets throughout the city which should be closed. 

There are simple ones, like many roads through Fairmount Park, and other parks in the city. And there are not so easy ones. But we believe many streets around the city can be opened — traffic is virtually nonexistent.

So, we’ve reached out to, or are in the process of contacting, neighborhood organizations and community leaders around the city, asking for recommendations on which streets they, and their communities, would like to see closed to traffic and open to people.

MLK Drive is a fantastic street to have opened to people — but it isn’t accessible to everyone, especially now that the state government has recommended people stay off crowded transportation.

Every Philadelphian should have easy access to open streets where they can safely travel, get exercise, or do whatever they can to stay calm during this tough time. 

So, while we’re listening from community leaders and organizations, we want to hear from our readers: What streets do you think can be reasonably shut down to motor vehicles through the pandemic period? 

Note: Public health recommendations around mitigating the spread of COVID-19 may be subject to change. This content may not reflect the current recommendations. For current recommendations around social distancing and outdoor activity, please check the CDC website.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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