Philly Free Streets, Philadelphia’s roaming car-free holiday, is set to return this week along four miles of North Broad Street. Overall creating an eight-mile round trip for avid walkers, Broad will be closed from City Hall up past Erie Avenue to Butler Street – open only to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“We know that Philly Free Streets brings together people from across our city,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement about the event which in past years has reportedly attracted 40,000 visitors. “Data from past years show that residents of at least 42 zip codes in Philadelphia attended our 2016 and 2017 programs, and we hope to have an even bigger turnout this year on North Broad Street.”
Kenney himself will be leading his annual powerwalk up Broad Street, starting at 9 a.m. north of City Hall, as part of Philly Free Streets.
Cars are banned and pedestrians and cyclists will get to take over North Broad, which is lined by well-known, historic buildings, such as the Divine Lorraine, the former Metropolitan Opera House (soon to be reopened as a new concert venue) and Joe Frazier’s Gym.
The route was originally a little bit shorter, ending at Erie, but interested local neighborhood associations encouraged officials to extend it past Erie Avenue to Butler so it would include the intersection of Germantown and Broad.
Philly Free Streets was originally inspired by resident’s positive experiences walking and biking around Philadelphia when Center City was closed to cars for Pope Francis’ 2015 visit during the World Meeting of Families.
Philly Free Streets began as an official event in 2016 with the shutdown of South Street from river to river, as well as sections of the Schuylkill River Trail up through West Fairmount Park.
In 2017 it shut down sections of North 3rd, 4th and 5th Streets up to El Centro Del Oro, the Latino commercial district known for its golden sidewalks and artificial palm trees, off of Indiana Avenue.
This year, free programming and educational events will be available along the entire route for families and visitors, along with the many businesses already in place along the route.
At North Broad and Germantown Ave, Mural Arts Philadelphia will be creating a literacy-themed mural in partnership with the Free Library’s Nicetown-Tioga Dwight’s Southern Barbeque on Germantown Avenue and Max’s Steaks on Erie Avenue will both be open to diners.
Other fun events to look out for include:
-Yoga and fitness classes outside Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine between Tioga and Venango
-A black history ‘scavenger hunt,’ with railroad tickets available at six historic locations
-Dance performance by the School of Pennsylvania Ballet – ‘Dance Me a Story!’ where kids will learn how to tell a story with dance – at Broad and Wood streets
-Family activities at Zion Baptist Church between Venango and Erie
Philly Free Streets: Street closures, SEPTA detours and rules
The city calls Philly Free Streets a “people-powered initiative of the city of Philadelphia that temporarily closes streets to cars, inviting people to walk, bike, and play.”
Since North Broad will be closed to automobiles, motorists are advised to find alternate routes, and some SEPTA bus service will be detoured around the area. But people are encouraged to take the Broad Street Line to join in the Free Streets at any point they desire.
Road closures are expected to go into effect at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. All road closures are expected to have ended by 5 p.m. that day. The Philly Free Streets event itself will last from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No motorized transportation will be allowed. Alcohol is also prohibited during the event.