Reinventing Our City Streets: The Open Streets Movement Grows

From Winnipeg to Los Angeles, over 90 cities in North America are taking part in the Open Streets movement.

From Winnipeg to Los Angeles, over 90 cities in North America are taking part in the Open Streets movement. Open Streets events in North America provide the all-too-rare experience of reclaiming roads from fast moving vehicles and opening them to walkers and riders alike. By re-framing the use of public space these events provide a new perspective on experiencing cities in a less auto-oriented way.

The movement originated with Bogota, Colombia’s Ciclovias, where each Sunday over 70 miles (113 km) of city streets are closed to motor vehicles and turned into open space for people to bike, run, walk, talk, and dance. 37 years after the initial Ciclovia, 30 percent of Bogota’s population flood the streets each weekend to engage in a celebration of exercise and community. Influenced by Bogota’s success, cities in the US and Canada have started Open Streets events of their own. Open Streets in Hamilton, ON, Green Streets in Boulder, CO, Sunday Parkways in Portland, OR, Sunday Streets in San Francisco and Berkeley, CA, Open Streets Minneapolis in Minneapolis, MN to name just a few, with brand new ones emerging this year.

New Open Streets Events in 2013

On August 11, 2013, San Diego held their first CicloSDias, an Open Streets event that took over 5.2 miles (8.4 km) of city streets. Residents and visitors alike could exercise, socialize, and explore local businesses. Funded by online donations and company sponsorships, CicloSDias entertained 10,000-15,000 participants with live music, free fruit, and complimentary bicycle repairs. Already making plans for the summer of 2014, Walter Chambers of Great Streets San Diego (GSSD) believes that this event has “the possibility to change the auto-oriented culture by allowing people – many for the first time – to see the true possibility of livable streets.”

“Active streets for active living” is what The City of New Brunswick’s Ciclovia on October 6, 2013, is aiming for, declared Brianna Suffy a committee member in their promotional video. Citizens will be liberated by being outside with family and friends, and experiencing their city’s public space in a positive way. With funding from The City of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Tomorrow, and several other partners and organizations, New Brunswick’s Ciclovia won’t include vendors along the 2.1 miles (3.4 km) of traffic-cleared streets so that the event will be free for everyone to enjoy.

Young, old, rich or poor, Open Streets are a way for people to experience their cities as part of an ever emerging, non-vehicle dependent society. “It’s an example of shared living, civility, and urbanism,” explained a ‘Bikewatcher’ working for Bogota’s Ciclovia in an interview in StreetsFilm’s Ciclovia: Bogotá, Colombia. The Open Streets movement exhibits a huge step forward to connecting our communities through active engagement.

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