Lonely Planet Writer

New York’s Central Park is now car-free

It’s about to get more leisurely for travellers to explore one of New York City’s most iconic spots as Central Park is now officially car-free.

New York’s famous Central Park is going car-free. Image by Astrakan Images/Getty Images

Public vehicles are banned from Central Park starting 27 June, though the walled through roads at 97th, 86th, 79th and 65th Streets are not affected by the changes. To celebrate, many people including city officials and advocates were invited to join a bike ride behind the last car to drive through the park.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement: “Our parks are for people, not cars. For more than a century, cars have turned parts of the world’s most iconic park into a highway. Today we take it back. We are prioritizing the safety and the health of the millions of parents, children and visitors who flock to Central Park.”

New York City Manhattan Central Park panorama in Autumn lake with skyscrapers and colorful trees with reflection. Image by ©Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

The park is a top attraction in the city and is an iconic spot for anyone who has ever even watched a film set in New York. The Central Park Conservancy, NYC Parks and the NYC Department of Transportation have been working for decades to reduce traffic in the parks.

Central Park was created back in the 1860s and 1870s by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux with the intention of it being a place for all New Yorkers to share. The Central Park Conservancy was created in 1980 with the hope of restoring the park, which had at that point suffered some disrepair from lack of funding and oversight. Since that time the park has seen a surge in visitors – up from about 13 million annual visits in 1980 to 42 million today – and is one of the most important stops for most tourists in the city.

Sculpture of a girl with a bird bath at the Burnett Memorial fountain. Natural setting with a bronze fountain statue in Conservatory Garden, Central Park.

This Conservancy noted that the decision honours the vision of the park’s designers, who wrote back in the 1800s: “The popular idea of the park is a beautiful open green space, in which quiet drives, rides, and strolls may be had. This cannot be preserved if a race course, or a road that can readily be used as a race course, is made of one of its leading attractions.”

Learn more about what to see and do in Central Park here.

This article was originally published on 24 April and updated 27 June 2018.