North Philadelphia: Free Streets Returns to North Broad Street

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney joined other city officials to announce the open route for this year’s Philly Free Streets event.

Residents can explore miles of North Philadelphia without worrying about cars getting in the way. The City is getting ready to close a 4-mile stretch of North Broad Street between Erie Avenue and City Hall. The event will be held on Saturday, August 3rd from 8am to 1pm.

“This year I’m thrilled to announce that we are bringing Philly Free streets back to historic North Broad Street,” said Mayor Kenney at a press conference held outside City Hall on April 17.

Philly Free Streets temporarily closes streets to cars, inviting people to walk, bike and play, according to the event’s website. Skating, using wheelchairs, pushing scooters and leashed animals are also encouraged.

“At its core, Philly Free Streets promotes livable streets,” said Mike Carroll, deputy managing director for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (oTIS). “Streets that are safe and comfortable for people of all ages and physical abilities to walk, bike and meet their neighbors.”

More than 120,000 people have participated in the previous four Philly Free Streets events, oTIS confirmed.

Organizers encourage participants to use SEPTA or Indego bikeshare to join the route.

“You are going to see everything you wouldn’t normally see in a car,” said cyclist Eric Neuhaus who biked through the Free Streets event last year. “It’s a great opportunity to see the city in a different perspective.”

The sentiment was echoed by Philadelphia resident Ilene Silverman.

“When you live in the city, you have to compete with traffic,” she said. “I am looking forward to no cars and a nicer atmosphere.”

Tyrone Davis, a resident of North Broad Street, said he plans to take full advantage of the closure.

“Last year I brought my chair in the middle of the street (Broad Street) between Fairmount (Avenue) and Brown (Street) and sat there most of the day enjoying the peace and calm,” he said.

This year, as in previous years, the city and local businesses plan to have events and stations set up along the route, although they haven’t announced what those will be yet.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), located at 118 – 128 N. Broad Street, will offer pay-as-you-wish admission to the museum for the Philly Free Streets event.

“We think it will be a lot of fun for people to get some physical exercise, enjoy an opportunity to explore the city and come inside and enjoy some of our art on view,” said Michele Besso, PAFA’s public relations director.

Exhibitions on view that day will include From the Schuylkill to the Hudson: Landscapes of the Early American Republic, located in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, where PAFA will delve into the important and under-explored tradition of landscape painting in Philadelphia.

“It will be a beautiful sight to see people from all over the region active, engaged and enjoying a Saturday morning in our ‘front yard,'” said Pastor Daniel Metzger of Old Zion Luteran Church, located at 628 N. Broad Street.

“I’m excited for another fun Free Streets event,” said Mayor Kenney. “I invite you to put on your walking shoes and join us along the eight mile car free route”

Thousands of people from 45 of Philly’s 48 zip codes took part in the North Broad Street event last year, Kenney said.

Police will release specific road closures will be closer to the event.

“We do not release any police staffing information for public safety reasons but for each special event in the City – such as Philly Free Streets – Police will review the event plans and allocate staff appropriately,” said Kelly Cofrancisco, deputy communications director for the City of Philadelphia.

Philly Free Streets is another indication of the “progressive steps” Philadelphia is taking to heighten the city’s national presence, according to Mayor Kenney. City officials said the event was designed with businesses and residents coming together in mind.

“It was a hugely popular day in the past years,” Besso said. “For us, it is great for business, and hopefully bring great energy and vibrancy to the area.”

Christopher Malo

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