Imagine if — even just for one day — the biggest street in your neighborhood was closed to motor vehicle traffic so you could explore it by bike or on foot. How different would your community start to look to you?
Open streets events — sometimes also called ciclovias — involve temporarily closing selected streets to motor vehicle traffic so residents can walk, bike, run, skate, socialize and play in a car-free environment. We’re launching a program to bring “open streets” events to the Sacramento region.
The first modern open streets events were held in San Francisco in the late 1960s, when the city regularly closed streets through Golden Gate Park to motor vehicle traffic. In the 1970s, Bogota, Colombia, introduced Ciclovia (Spanish for “bike path”), a program of weekly street closures that turned the streets into temporary parks. Today, Bogota’s program covers 70 miles and attracts 2 million residents and has inspired large ciclovia programs in other Central and South American cities, including Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Berkeley and Redding, along with dozens of cities outside California, hold open streets events each year. San Diego’s first open streets event will be launched later this year. People who take part in these events talk about experiencing their community in a completely new way. That’s what’s possible in the Sacramento region too.
Open streets events take various forms, but they all share these characteristics:
- They involve temporarily closing a segment of public street to motor vehicle traffic, typically on a Sunday.
- They’re free events, open to all.
- Routes range from one to 10 miles or more and often run at least partly through retail districts, where local business owners benefit from the increased retail activity.
- Community organizations, clubs and other groups host booths and attractions along the route, providing food, music, games and crafts.
- Corporate sponsorships, grants and/or public funding are used to cover event costs, which typically involve planning, marketing, traffic controls and equipment rental.
Open streets events can benefit the Sacramento region by:
- Offering residents fun, healthy, car-free recreational and social opportunities with very little of the time and resources needed for creating permanent recreational amenities.
- Enabling residents to bike or walk on streets they otherwise might only travel by car, including residents who don’t typically self-identify as bicyclists or walkers.
- Generating neighborhood and community pride in areas that may lack recreational amenities or that aren’t typically celebrated.
- Generating additional retail business activity along the route.
SABA and partners including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, North Natomas Transportation Management Association, Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, and HOT ITALIAN/Lepore Development have taken the first steps to establish a program within SABA that will organize open streets events throughout the region. SABA recently raised $3,500 in initial seed money for the program.
Near-term tasks for launching the program include:
- Leading business and public agency partners on visits to San Francisco, Redding and/or Los Angeles to experience upcoming open streets events
- Studying possible organizational and funding models for a SABA-based program
- Developing a program budget and identifying prospective partners and sponsors
- Identifying possible locations for initial open streets events
- Raising funds to support early organizational efforts
If you’d like to learn more about our open streets initiative, please contact Jim Brown at 916-444-6600.