Walk Friendly Communities Embrace Open Streets

Credit: City of Fort Collins

Walk Friendly Communities frequently utilize Open Streets, or Ciclovias, to promote walkability and active transportation. These walking-focused events temporarily re-route motor vehicle traffic to repurpose street space for walking, biking, and other activities. With several successful Open Streets under their belts, cities around the country have expanded their programs to activate public space throughout the year in different neighborhoods around town. Fort Collins, CO, Bend, OR and Atlanta, GA are three Walk Friendly Communities with booming Open Streets programs.

In its fourth year of hosting Open Streets, Fort Collins, CO currently holds both summer and fall Open Streets events in diverse locations throughout the community. Goals for the publicly funded event include highlighting wellness and walkability as well as creating neighborhood interconnection. The city implements tactical urbanism style street projects in order to demonstrate future projects, encourages family-friendly wellness-focused activities and programming from local organizations, offers space for one on one sit downs with city counselors and other governmental and civic organizations, and presents a variety of local music and food to accompany the goings-on. A number of ‘plazas’ are temporarily created and serve as gathering places along the route.

Bend, OR’s Open Streets focuses on infrastructure, health, and active modes of transportation.  Bend’s Commute Options defines Open Streets as their ‘signature’ event promoting biking and walking in the area, and describe it as follows: “Bend Open Streets catalyze vibrant public spaces, active transportation, and good health by opening the city’s largest public space—its streets—for people to walk, bike and roll to discover active transportation in a safe, car-free environment.” Programming was kept streamlined under a set of “Activity Hubs,” each with its own theme. Past hubs have included Parks & Rec Hub, a Transit Hub, a Makers Hub, and a Healthy Kids Hub. In addition, Bend used the opportunity to engage directly with residents via hands on “Demonstration Projects” located on the Open Streets route. In 2018 Bend will hold two separate Open Streets events.

An initiative of a local non-profit, in partnership with the city, Atlanta’s Streets Alive event has been ongoing since 2010, and now features three separate routes across spring, summer and fall. Streets Alive promotes livability by drawing attention to a variety of transportation options, physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices, civic pride and the reclaiming the streets as living spaces. The event-specific Streets Alive Radio streams music during the day, energizing and connecting those taking part. Citizens are encouraged to ride transit, walk or bike to the event. Advocacy efforts underscore infrastructure needs along routes which are the target of future engineering improvements.

Open Streets events are a great way to encourage people to enjoy a wonderful sense of community while highlighting the vibrancy of urban space when non-motorized traffic is prioritized. Start planning now for 2019!