This past Sunday, in New York City, the unthinkable happened: Broadway was officially closed… to cars that is. As part of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to reduce traffic in the city, two sections of Broadway, from 47th to 42nd and from 35th to 33rd Streets, were closed to all vehicular traffic. For the first time ever, happy New Yorkers were able to traverse Times Square without feeling the need to compete with cars. If you think that’s impressive, wait till you read what they have planned next!

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The plan was slowly set in motion this past Sunday as part of the Green Light for Midtown plan developed by the Bloomberg Administration. The goal is to reduce congestion by closing down sections where traffic meets tricky intersections. The hope is that by doing so, flow will be improved. Sure enough, the first real test of the plan will be this week, once regular business traffic returns to the city.

But the real change may happen soon after. If the city judges the closure of these sections a success, it is prepared to go even further and close the entire boulevard to vehicular access. The city plans on creating a truly pedestrian friendly walkway in the heart of the Manhattan theatre district. It will effectively become the biggest change to the makeup of the city, an urban companion to New York’s Central Park.

Lest you think that this is a crazy idea, it is worth noting that New York City is not the only city in the world planning the closure of streets. Sydney itself is also considering turning large chunks of its downtown into pedestrian only areas.

Whether Broadway returns to its former car-jammed self, one thing is for sure. At least for the time being New York pedestrians can bask in the knowledge that a little bit of the city has been returned to them.

Photos by John Marshall Mantel for the NY Times

+ Green Light for Midtown Project

Via New York Times