Initiative to open Philadelphia streets by closing roads

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- It was a move that many applauded during Pope Francis's visit to Philadelphia last September - miles of car-free streets in and around the city.

Officials are making plans to do it again in the next few weeks.

Anytime Philadelphians hear the words "street closure" it's usually not met with the reaction Jamie Lokoff gave us.

Lokoff, owner of Milkboy, tells us, "I think it's great! I mean, I was around for when the pope was here and they closed off all the streets and what a great energy and vibe. I think if they close off the streets, I think we've all been waiting for it in the city."

On Friday Mayor Jim Kenney and other officials asked residents to embrace a new initiative that sets out to do just that.

Philly Free Streets will shut down a 7 mile route from river to river - South Street to MLK Drive in West Fairmount Park on September 24th from 8am to 1pm.

The difference between this initiative and the street closures during the papal visit is this time the city wants the streets to be flooded instead with foot traffic and cyclists.

Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. says, "It's a great way to experience from South Street to Main Street and to get a glimpse of things that you would not see moving 40 mph through the streets in a vehicle."

Some business owners and employees are excited about the potential for new customers.

Local bartender Amanda McCarty says, "If they're parking somewhere else and it's free reign to come and walk down the street I think it will bring a lot more people in."

Others, like Aaron Wilson, say it's bad for business and hurts his bottom line.

Wilson, the owner of The Cut Bar, tells us, "When the people are walking you think they're going to walk right in there but these people that's walking they don't know about the businesses you have the people have to know about this business so you're going to get 2-3 percent that say oh yea let's just walk up in here."

But city officials say the ultimate goal is to get residents to rethink the way they utilize their neighborhood street.

Program Coordinator Bob Previdi explains, "I think it's going to get people thinking about how we share the road between cyclists and pedestrians and cars equitably."

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