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Photo Courtesy of NYC DOT
Open StreetsSummer Streets 2011 event at Union Square, New York, NY
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Photo by Marilyn Laliberte
Fargo Residents Streets AliveFargo residents get moving during Streets Alive! 2011 on Broadway Avenue in downtown Fargo, ND.
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Photo by Alex Zafer
Street Hockey in HamiltonStreet hockey is played out in the middle of what is usually one of Hamilton, ON’s busiest streets during Open Streets Hamilton.
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Photo Courtesy of NYC DOT
Summer Streets in NYCSummer Streets in NYC
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Photo by Frank Chan / SF Bicycle Coalition
Walking Street Event San FranciscoGrant Avenue in San Francisco, CA’s Chinatown during a Walking Streets event in 2011.
Fargo Residents Streets Alive
Street Hockey in Hamilton
Summer Streets in NYC
Walking Street Event San Francisco
A car-choked urban street becomes a temporary public park. People walk, bicycle, hula-hoop and hopscotch. Musicians give impromptu concerts. Small children ride tricycles and push bikes down the center of the street. This is the genius of Open Streets: closing public space to cars and opening it to human activity.
“It is a very profound sight to see and to hear, or not hear, what a busy city street becomes when you take the cars away,” said Susan King, San Francisco’s Sunday Streets program manager at Livable City. “Standing in the middle of the street you can take in the architecture and notice things that you don’t have the opportunity to notice when there are cars around.”
In 2005, there were 11 Open Streets programs in North America. There are now more than 80. Gil Peñalosa, one of the organizers behind Bogota’s pioneering Ciclovía, which draws two million people to 70 miles (115 kilometers) of opened streets every Sunday, continues to inspire the movement as executive director of 8-80 Cities.
Peñalosa offered this description of Open Streets: “It’s magnificent. All of us talk about sustainability. Part of sustainability is good use of our resources. What is public? What belongs to all of us? The streets.”
Mike Samuelson, member services and Open Streets coordinator at the Alliance for Biking and Walking, sees its Open Streets Project as a way to help the 60% of people who are interested in bicycling but concerned about safety. “Once people experience getting around the city by bicycling or walking, they enjoy the experience and they begin to advocate for it,” Samuelson said. “We’ve seen Open Streets as a great way to begin dialogues with neighborhoods that haven’t been engaged with biking and walking in the past.”
“The biggest success of Sunday Streets is helping people think differently about what the purpose of our streets is,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “In the beginning, it was hard to convince people that taking cars off the streets would be good for business and good for neighborhoods. It didn’t take long before they were asking for more.”
Berkeley, CA, a city of 113,000, recently opened its streets to 40,000 walkers and cyclists, with the support of the business community. Organizer Emunah Hauser said, “People slow down at Open Streets and end up noticing businesses they may not have before. They are in an exploratory frame of mind.”
The immense popularity of Open Streets can lead to human-powered congestion. Shahum has a solution: a 5-year goal to open streets weekly along a major, citywide route in San Francisco, following the model of Bogota’s Ciclovía. Brownsville, TX, is an example of how quickly a city can open its streets to healthy activity. Less than 100 days after the initial idea was discussed with Peñalosa, Brownsville held its first Open Streets event in November 2012. Peñalosa said, “Where there is a champion, it can happen. Behind every successful project, there are champions.”
Four great Open Streets events are profiled on the next page ...