(Philadelphia, September 24, 2016) – Thousands of bicyclists, joggers and walkers turned out today to enjoy the first “Philly Free Streets” – a people-powered initiative covering 10 miles of free, fun activities through more than a dozen Philadelphia neighborhoods.
The event kicked off at 8am with a ribbon-cutting at Front and South Street led by Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis. “When we are in our cars, we miss out on many of the sights and sounds of our great city,” DiBerardinis said. “Active transportation like walking and biking provides opportunities to take in hometown landscapes that are easily missed while driving, and we saw that today with the first Philly Free Streets.”
The event was organized by the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, led by Deputy Managing Director Clarena Tolson. “This was a glorious day to enjoy our city, but Philly Free Streets also had important health benefits,” she said. “Of large U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest rates of diabetes, hypertension, and premature cardiovascular death. The sort of active transportation promoted by today’s event can help prevent these health conditions.”
The inaugural route ran from Front & South to the South Street Bridge, then on to the Schuylkill River Trail, into W. Fairmount Park and Parkside, then continuing on to MLK Drive to the Falls Bridge. In addition, streets in West Fairmount Park were closed for activities. Mayor Kenney took part in a power walk, and radio personality Patty Jackson, a stroke survivor, was joined by many others as she strolled from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“We are thrilled to see so many Philadelphians come out to help launch this fun and community-oriented day in our beautiful City,” said City Representative Sheila Hess, who led a photo shoot with Ben Franklin on South Street. “It was wonderful seeing so many people out of their cars, enjoying so much that Philadelphia has to offer.”
Snap Kitchen, Vea Fitness, AARP Pennsylvania, and Open Streets PHL were among the sponsors of the event, which included more than 60 activities along the 10-mile route provided by a host of groups such as the Free Library and the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia.
Participants were able to take part in yoga and Zumba classes, trampoline jumping, and even get lost in a colorful chalk Mural Maze on MLK Drive, presented by Mural Arts. A scavenger hunt covered the length of the route, and more than 7,500 prizes for a host of activities were given out.
“The response to the inaugural Philly Free Streets was truly heartening,” said Deputy Managing Director Tolson, “and it will be evaluated with a view to continuing what I hope will become a long tradition of opening up our streets to active transportation.”