Why We Don’t Do Open Street Events

The term “event” suggests something temporary. Something that takes place and then -blink- it’s over.

That’s why we avoid the word “event” when discussing our Open Streets programs. At 8–80 Cities we promote and support the development of programs that open streets to people by closing them to cars. We see these as being a bit like the Olympics. Would you call the Olympics an event? We wouldn’t.

But wait a second, you may be thinking, Open Streets programs temporarily open streets to people. So how is that not an event?

We believe that the intended goals of Open Streets programs are greater than providing a day of fun in the street or competing in sports event. And, if you’ve had the pleasure to experience an Open Streets program, hopefully you’ve felt the difference too.

Drawing on best practices from programs in Latin American countries like the Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia and the Vía RecreActiva in Guadalajara, Mexico, Open Streets programs typically open selected streets to people for approximately six hours on a weekend morning on a regular and predictable basis. People participate by walking, cycling, or using other forms of active transportation to explore the streets in a new way. They also feature physical activities such as aerobics, dance classes, or other health-related programming like nutritional education or blood pressure check-ups. By having regularly occurring program dates, the Vía RecreActiva and Ciclovía are now embedded into their cities’ urban fabric.

Open your streets to change minds

The Open Streets movement is about changing the way we view our streets and cities. We want people to see our streets’ potential as being more than moving cars. We want people of all ages and ability to participate in regular physical activity. We want to encourage people to walk or cycle more in their daily lives and improve air quality. Our aim is to engage residents in conversations about how we can improve neighbourhoods and build political will for streetscape improvements. Opening streets can help people to discover new business areas, support their local economies, and meet their neighbours. Ultimately, streets can be places for people to live and thrive.

That’s why we strategically use the phrase “Open Streets programs” and call each day of Open Streets program a “program date.” If we want others to believe that Open Streets programs are different, we need to start talking about them differently.

We’re not saying you need to start with an Open Streets program that happens 52 Sundays of the year (although that would be awesome and we’d be happy to help!). But as a movement, let’s use language that suggests longevity, strategy, and an intention for Open Streets programs to be recognized as something greater than temporary.

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