NEW YORK – In Paris, they call it La Plage, or the beach. And in Bogota, Colombia, it’s Ciclovia, or bikeway.
For six hours Saturday in New York, it was called Summer Streets. Nearly seven miles of Manhattan were stripped of traffic, creating a playground for bikers, walkers and loungers.
“Bellissimo!” declared Antonio de Lucia, a tourist from Caserta, Italy, who decided to walk about three miles from his Chinatown hotel to a friend’s Times Square restaurant – with more than 90 pounds of luggage. An hour into his hike, he was smiling as he sauntered up a stretch of Park Avenue awash in cyclists, pedestrians and in-line skaters. One bicyclist swooped down a sloped section of the avenue yelling “whee!”
“It’s a moment of truth for this city. People are participating – New Yorkers are united with their city,” said de Lucia, 29.
Bike-loving celebrities Lance Armstrong and David Byrne are helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg launch the experiment. It emulates similar initiatives in cities around the world aiming to create a livable, ecologically gentle urban environment.
The 6.9-mile, car-free route from the Brooklyn Bridge north to East 72nd Street had links to Central Park and other open spaces. It’s set to be repeated the next two Saturdays.
The idea is simple, in the words of the city’s official Web site: “Play. Run. Walk. Bike. Breathe.”