PURPOSE: To temporarily provide safe spaces for walking, bicycling, skating and social activities; promote local economic development; and raise awareness about the positive effects of walking, biking and car-free places.
LEADERS: City departments Politicians Advocates Non-Profits
SCALE: City || District || Corridor
FACT: 50 of the 70 known North American open streets initiatives began within the last three years
Open Streets initiatives are increasingly common in cities seeking innovative ways to meet environmental, social, economic, and public health goals. Open streets are often referred to as “ciclovía,” which in Spanish trans- lates literally as “bike path.”The origin is largely thought to be Bogotá, Colombia, a city known worldwide for being a leader of the ciclovía/open streets movement. However, before there was Ciclovía in Bogotá, there was “Seattle Bicycle Sundays,” which first launched in 1965, predating Bogotá’s ciclovía by nearly a decade.
While the benefits of Open Streets initiatives are widely recognized, perhaps the most tangible benefit is the social interaction and activity that develops—thou- sands of people of all ages, incomes, occupations, reli- gions, and races have the opportunity to meet in the pub- lic realm while sharing in physical or social activities. In doing so, participants develop a wider understanding of their city, each other, and the potential for making streets friendlier for people.
The resulting vibrancy therefore enables people to experience their city’s public realm in a different way, which helps build broader political support for undertak- ing more permanent pedestrian, bicycle, and other liv- ability improvements. In this way, open streets are a tool for building social and political capital, while having very real economic impacts for businesses, vendors, and orga- nizations along the chosen route.
Perhaps Waterloo, ON City Councilor, Melissa Durrell, said it best when describing her city’s Car Free Sunday initiative: “This is about bringing people into the core.”
Excerpt from Tactical Urbanism 2.