South Street from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River was closed to motorized traffic from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday for the inaugural Philly Free Streets day. The route continued on the Schuylkill River Trail to Martin Luther King Drive creating a 10-mile traffic-free haven for cyclists and pedestrians.
The event was inspired by Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last year when, as a security precaution, the city closed down several major roads to car traffic. People took to the streets. They rode bicycles, roller bladed, walked, ran, and just played.
Unlike the road closures during the papal visit, Saturday’s event was designed with businesses in mind, according to Clarena Tolson, deputy managing director for the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. The route included 15 residential neighborhoods and a business corridor. No outside vendors were brought in to compete with local businesses.
“I think we’re going to see more of these events,” said Tolson. “The mayor is very excited about it. I expect that in 2017 we will be back at this again.”