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Earth Day: Car Free NYC closes off traffic on Broadway

Now in its third year, Car Free Day aims to encourage New Yorkers to use other forms of transportation, including mass transit and bikes.

Free Citi Bike rides are being offered in

Free Citi Bike rides are being offered in the city on Saturday, as part of Car Free Day. Photo Credit: Getty Images / John Moore

A 30-block stretch of Broadway, between Union Square and Times Square, is shut down to vehicular traffic Saturday as part of the city's Car Free Day initiative.

Held the day before Earth Day, Car Free Day aims to deliver the streets back to pedestrians while promoting sustainability and eco-friendly modes of transportation such as cycling and mass transit.

Citi Bike, in partnership with MasterCard, has signed on to offer free day passes on Car Free Day this year.

"They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but on Car Free Earth Day, free Citi Bike rides are the real deal,” said Citi Bike general manager Kris Sandor.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez touted activities at five rest stops along the Broadway route — Times Square, Herald Square, Garment District, Flatiron District and Union Square — that are drawing in pedestrians with Earth Day-themed activities, including dance and music performances, fitness classes and educational opportunities.

A nine-block stretch of St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights is also closed off from vehicle traffic as part of Car Free Day.

Rodriguez, who is the chair of the council’s transportation committee, said Car Free Day enables New Yorkers to experience the city in a different way.

"If we are to change how we treat our planet, we must be bold. Car Free Day helps us re-imagine how we use our streets, commute, and reduce our carbon footprint by shutting down vehicular traffic on Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue,” he said. “Let's take action now to preserve our planet for present and future generations.”

New York City is not alone in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions while encouraging discourse about sustainability. Car Free Day has become an institution throughout Bogota, Colombia, and Paris banned cars in parts of the city on the first Sunday of every month in 2016.

Scroll down for a full list of activities related to Car Free Day.

Broadway, between Union Square and Times Square, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • The Times Square stop features free bike tours by Loudest Yeller. Project Dance is providing entertainment all day long and several other music performances are taking place every hour, on the hour.
  • The Garment District stop is home to an environment-themed art installation by Isabelle Garbani as well as a science demonstration called the Ice Box Challenge, which explains the benefits of “hyper efficient buildings.”
  • The Herald Square stop includes classes on double Dutch, sports salsa and hula hooping, as well as more traditional forms of exercise like cardio, dance and boot camp. Musical performances are taking place at the top of every hour, and Columbia University is hosting workshops on climate change.
  • The Flatiron District stop is jam-packed with activities, from cycling programming provided by Citi Bike, Bike NY and We Bike, to a number of performances, workshops and fitness classes. Terrain Work, an NYC-based landscape architecture and urban design studio, is bringing its 36-foot-long bouquet of flowers and the National Museum of Mathematics is featuring its “Plant the Daisy” exhibit.
  • The Union Square stop includes dance, fitness and yoga classes, as well as sustainability programming.

St. Nicholas Avenue, between 181st and 190th streets, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • At 181st Street, the FDNY has a fire truck for people to explore.
  • Between 182nd and 183rd streets, the city has set up a main stage hosting performances by Dance Project Washington Heights, Jazz Power, Roy Tavares and J Aguabuena, among others.
  • At 182nd Street, DOT and Bike NY has swapped outgrown children’s bikes for the correct size and is providing free helmets and learn-to-ride lessons.
  • At the United Healthcare stage between 186th and 187th streets, enjoy a performance by Carnegie Hall or a puppet show with Repertorio Español and the Society of Educational Arts.
  • 190th Street is featuring Zumba classes hosted by La Mega.
  • The New York Restoration Project is offering tours of Highbridge Park.
  • The New York Road Runners, The Armory, Street Soccer USA, Row New York and other groups are offering different sporting opportunities throughout the day.
  • Brazilian drumming workshops are being offered in the Washington Heights Pedestrian Plaza.
  • The Brazilian drum band Fogo Azul is parading along the route throughout the day.

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