Bringing People Together: The Open Streets Movement
With so much going on in the world, the Open Streets Movement has not taken center stage in the media. But the impact of the Open Streets Movement is quietly changing the way Public Administrators are bringing communities together.
The Birth of the Movement
Ciclovía, a Spanish term that means “cycle path”, legitimized the efforts of organizer Jaime Ortiz Mariño and groups of cyclists to close main streets from motorized vehicles on Sundays and holidays for runners, skaters, and bicyclists. Bogota, the capital of Colombia officially recognized Ciclovía as an official city-wide program in 1976. Currently, over 2 million people take part weekly, spanning over 75 miles, in this ongoing event.
This event has emerged into a healthy-living, community-outreach initiative for countries across the world. India introduced the event as Raahgiri Day which has not only increased community activities but has improved local air quality through the reduction of vehicle emissions. In Ottawa, Canada over 30 miles of urban city roads are closed weekly under the Sunday Bikedays Program and in the United States, the Open Streets Movement has grown in cities such as: Clearwater, Chicago, Denver, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Portland, and dozens more.
Open Streets in America
An Open Streets event consist of a series of city streets that are temporarily closed for exclusive walking, bicycling, jogging, rollerblading, and related activities on weekends and holidays. These events encourage people to get out and exercise in a comfortable and fun environment. Supporting activities regularly include tai chi, yoga, aerobics, and family-friendly games.
Expanding the Movement
The Street Plans Collaborative, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and 8 80 Cities, partner to inform, promote, motivate, and expand the Open Streets Movement in the United States and Canada. At the International Open Streets Summit, an action plan was discussed to increase overall diversity, inclusion, and sustainability for African-American and Hispanic residents from current participation trends.
A great example of community inclusion was seen in the efforts of the City commission and community organizers of the Oakland’s Love our Neighborhood Day and Oaklavia.
Public Administrators Expand on the Success
Public Administrators recognize that these events provide a great opportunity to improve community relations, promote civic and cultural pride, and show support to local businesses and organizations. Some municipalities, such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris, Montreal, and Minneapolis, are going a step further by considering expanding the number of temporary street closures and/or studying the economic feasibility of permanently closing streets to motor-vehicles.
The city of Minneapolis has had great success with its initial closure of Milwaukee Ave. in 2016 and has increased the number of street closures in subsequent years.
Paris has extended its closures of city roads from one day a week to almost a month every summer. The streets along the Seine not only prohibit motor-vehicles, but are distinctively transformed into beaches, which include sand, umbrellas, beach chairs, and temporary pools.
The Open Streets Movement is vastly changing cultures world-wide. In some parts of the world, Sundays are turning into permanent closures, 2 streets into many miles, and small groups into the thousands.