NYC DOT and our partners are proud to present Summer Streets. We will temporarily close Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to motor vehicles and open it up to people on three consecutive Saturdays in August (August 8, 15, & 22).
I first learned about this interesting event through streetfilms.org, check out a video about the Summer Streets here. Streetfilms is part of the excellent streetsblog network (which this blog is proudly part of).
Could Portland, Maine do something like this? There are currently a couple of events that close down roads here, including the Old Port Fest, which removes cars from most of the Old Port streets, and the Sidewalk Arts Festival, which makes Congress Street a pedestrian only area from Congress Square to Monument Square.
A key aspect to both NYC's Summer Streets and the two events in Portland mentioned above is that not only are the streets car-free, there is also 'stuff to do' besides walking down the middle of the road or not having to look both ways before crossing the street.
I think that Portland could handle a Summer Streets type event several times during the year on Exchange Street, which is a great example of a truly urban street that fits in perfectly with the character of the city. Of course, emergency vehicles and delivery trucks would be let through, but the overall harm of not allowing cars down Exchange Street for every Saturday in August would be minimal and it would be a benefit for the heavy pedestrian traffic in the area. It could even help open up a few people's minds about what new developments (think the Ocean Gateway area and Bayside districts) could be instead of big parking lots and buildings zoned for single uses.
Anyone else want to help me put up some barricades at the top of Exchange Street next Saturday? :-P