Pa. coronavirus update: MLK Drive reopening this summer; Flyers offering COVID vaccines, free tickets

Cyclists and joggers use Martin Luther King Drive on March 11, 2021, which has been closed to traffic since the start of the pandemic. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Cyclists and joggers use Martin Luther King Drive on March 11, 2021, which has been closed to traffic since the start of the pandemic. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Updated: 4:40 p.m.

MLK Drive reopening in August

Martin Luther King Drive will be reopened to cars this summer, according to city officials.

During a Monday City Council budget hearing, Deputy Managing Director for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability Mike Carroll assured councilmembers that MLK would reopen to vehicles during the first week of August.

The city closed the roadway last year during the pandemic to provide enough space to physically distance for people looking to get outside during the city’s quarantine period.

After the traffic closure, the drive saw a 1,300% increase in biker and pedestrian use, reaching more than 5,000 visitors a day in 2020.

Pedestrians and bicyclists in the city have urged the city to make the closure permanent. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reported gathering nearly 5,300 signatures in a petition to the mayor.

MLK Drive is one of several roadways included in the city’s high-injury network of roads with the highest rates of injury and fatality per mile. As of November 2020, 80% of all city traffic deaths occurred on just 12% of its roads.

“I don’t think that opening up the drive as an alternative to [I-76]… necessarily meets the city’s Vision Zero goals or the city’s environmental goals,” said Randy LoBasso, policy director for the coalition.

“We know how successful it was over the past year, and there should have been more, perhaps, to this discussion than simply setting a date and and bringing cars back to a place that people have gotten used to using without cars.”

The city will continue to close the drive for weekend recreational use through the end of October and opportunities to extend these closures are being explored, said a city spokesperson. The spokesperson also said adjustments to the configuration of MLK Drive are under review.

Flyers offering COVID vaccines, free tickets at final game

The Philadelphia Flyers are offering an extra perk to fans who visit the Wells Fargo Center Monday evening for their final game of the season: a COVID-19 vaccine.

The team has partnered with Penn Medicine to give out the Johnson & Johnson shot to any ticketed fans or employees who want one. And the jab isn’t the only perk — anybody who gets the shot will also take home a voucher for two free tickets to a Flyers game next season.

The hockey game vaccine clinic is part of the Flyers’ pro-vaccine campaign, Take Your Shot.

It has involved several events and public service announcements, and the team’s charitable arm gave $10,000 to Philadelphia’s Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium for vaccination efforts.

Vaccines will be available Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. outside Section 104 in the arena’s southwest food hall.

Anyone who receives the shot will also take home a commemorative T-shirt, hand sanitizer. and sticker.

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