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Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive Revs Up for a Car Comeback

The South Beach strip banned vehicles during the pandemic, slamming the brakes on its famous cruising scene. Now traffic will return — but some pedestrian-first changes will be permanent.

Ocean Drive went car-free at the beginning of the pandemic, but the street party is about to end. 

Photographer: Chandan Khanna/AFP

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Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive has long been a place to look and be looked at — in the neon-lit windows of Art Deco hotels, at the tables of packed restaurants serving margaritas as big as your face, in the front seats of candy-colored hot rods and exotic supercars cruising up and down the beachfront strip.

But for the past two years, visitors to the city’s South Beach have appreciated a new view. During the pandemic, the palm-lined street was cleared of vehicles and turned into a runway for pedestrians. Like many cities around the world, Miami Beach responded to the Covid-19 crisis by transforming what was once a busy thoroughfare into a car-free space, allowing walkers, bikers and rollerbladers to roam free, and restaurants to expand their outdoor seating offerings.