March 21, 2020
UPDATE: The road closure will now last for the foreseeable future.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Philadelphia will be partially closed indefinitely to drivers, city officials announced Friday night.
Beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, March 20, a portion of the road will be closed to vehicles to allow cyclists room to exercise and encourage social distancing, Mayor Jim Kenney's office announced in a press release. The road closure only affects the section of MLK Parkway between East Falls Bridge and Eakins Oval.
The road will be closed indefinitely, and is meant to provide an opportunity for spacious outdoor exercise, as the city encourages residents to socially distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"The City of Philadelphia strongly encourages residents to stay indoors as much as possible," the release said. "However, we recognize that physical activity is important to well being, and under current restrictions, are providing opportunities for park and trail use. We encourage residents to please maintain social distancing in the course of outdoors recreation."
Social distancing is a way of controlling the spread of coronavirus by limiting contact with people, who may be infected or who you may unknowingly infect, even if you appear healthy. It encourages staying out of public places, avoiding crowds, not touching others, and more kinds of isolation.
Closure of the popular route follows a petition by the Bicycle Coalition of the Greater Philadelphia Area to shut down the road, and eventually close more of Philly's streets to drivers. As the petition states, the road usually closes every weekend beginning April 1, so this weekend's closure simply accelerates the timeline of weekend closures.
Biking in Philly has already increased greatly amidst the public health crisis, and more than doubled according to data recording riders on the city's circuit trails. This increase in ridership is a threat to coronavirus spread, as trails become more crowded and make maintaining six feet of distance from others more difficult.
"Cyclists, runners, and pedestrians using the trails as of late have the same complaint: there just isn't enough room for everyone who is looking to get some exercise," the petition by the Bicycle Coalition read.
For those going on the MLK Parkway, the Mayor's office advises "Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer is advised after every visit to an open outdoor facility."