This past weekend, Living Streets Alliance joined 125 leaders from around the globe for The National Open Streets Summit in Atlanta. From Bogota, Colombia to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, representatives convened to discuss how Open Streets Projects are transforming the way people experience their cities. The three day summit took place in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the heart of the King Historic District, memorials and public art commemorating the Civil Rights Movement were an inspiring reminder of the power to galvanize people to envision our communities as better places for everyone.
Cities all over the world are adopting Open Streets Projects (aka Ciclovias) as a way to support community building, address health inequities, and demonstrate how our streets can be vibrant, democratic spaces. The diverse representation at the summit which included urban planners, traffic engineers, city officials, grassroots organizers, school teachers, healthcare workers, and advocacy organizations is a strong indication as to the reach of this movement. The group learned from each other strategies to develop robust Open Streets programs that encourage policy changes for more walkable and bikeable communities. While there are no one-size-fits-all approaches, the summit highlighted a few key lessons:
- Event vs. Program. Many people confuse Open Streets Projects as just another street festival. Open Streets are actually programs with measurable goals to enhance the physical, emotional, and economic health of individuals and communities. Open Streets programs consider a variety of strategies to activate communities so that planning can be inclusive and fit the unique needs of each neighborhood.
- Show ‘N Tell. Using Open Streets to kick-off pilot projects like separated bike lanes, parklets, “pop-up” parks or other features is a great way to showcase infrastructure that enhances biking and walking. Demo projects at Open Streets provides an opportunity to engage in a conversation with thousands of participants and ask where they would most like to see these kinds of improvements.
- Survey. Conducting surveys of participants at Open Streets can validate the importance of these initiatives. Surveys can explain how Open Streets Projects connect neighborhoods and local businesses, reduce barriers to biking and walking, and transform public perception of our streets. Surveys can provide the “hard data” to decision-makers and stakeholders to support funding and resources.
What can YOU do to support the Open Streets Movement?
There are less than 30 days until our own Open Streets initiative, Cyclovia Tucson, on Sunday, November 1st. At LSA we know that it’s our local community members who donate their time and resources so that thousands of Tucsonans can enjoy our streets, car-free and care-free twice a year! There are at least four ways you can support our local Open Streets efforts:
Volunteer: LSA recruits over 300 volunteers for each Cyclovia! Come lend a hand for a few hours, then join in on the fun.
Become a sponsor: Different levels of sponsorship opportunities help sustain Cyclovia, as well as provide promotion to your business or organization.
Host an Activity: Be a part of creating a positive experience for thousands of Cyclovia participants by hosting an activity.
Donate: Donations both large and small all go to planning and executing a fantastic experience that is free and inclusive, so everyone can enjoy.