The days of dodging cars in Prospect Park are finally over, and runner Valery Sheppard said it was about time.
“I think it’s great. I don’t think parks should have cars in 'em," said Sheppard.
Neither does the city transportation department, which on Tuesday rolled out the first full day of a car-free Prospect Park.
Traffic was banned on the park's West Drive two-and-a-half years ago. The East Drive remained open, but only during the morning rush.
But a city analysis found that fewer than 300 cars had been using the drive every morning, compared to about a thousand joggers and bikers.
After testing the ban in a pilot program last summer, the city decided to make it permanent on the first commuting day of the new year.
“The number of people using the park is growing every year. This park is becoming a phenomenal place. Cycling, as you all know, in the past 10 years has grown 83 percent in Brooklyn. Citi Bike is only bringing more,“ said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
Officials said the switch-over had been in the works for months, fueled by support from the community and activists seeking a safer park environment.
Eric McClure, the co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, said even he’s had some close calls.
“There’s always been times when cars have been a little too fast and a little too close on the drive,” said McClure. “I think finally getting the cars out of the park will have a tremendous impact on safety of park users.”
Officials said the pilot program showed that there was little to no effect on traffic around the park. Still, officials said they will monitor traffic signals and make adjustments as needed.
While some drivers do anticipate increased congestion because of the change, many said the benefits of having a car-free park outweigh the negatives.
“There’s already plenty of traffic here -- that’s perfectly understandable. But the park was never intended to be the solution to traffic problems that exist anyway,” said motorist David Estrada.
Instead, officials hope now the park offers a safe place for families to truly enjoy Brooklyn’s backyard.