Highlights from the Open Streets Summit, Atlanta 2015

The third installment of the National Open Streets Summit took place in Atlanta this year, about 2 weeks ago. It was the biggest one yet with over 100 people in attendance to learn more about Open Streets programs. 8 80 Cities was a key partner and helped the Open Streets Project and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition put together this exciting learning opportunity.

Here’s a round-up of the lessons we took away from Summit:

1. Get your community’s leadership inspired about Open Streets – In a plenary session, Atlanta City Councillor Kwanza Hall credited seeing the Via RecreActiva in Guadalajara Mexico as the catalyst for him becoming one of the greatest champions for an Open Streets program in Atlanta. Councillor Hall came with 8 80 Cities to Guadalajara in 2010 on one of our Open Streets Study Tours.

Councillor Kwanza Hall speaks at a press conference before Atlanta Streets Alive began on September 27, 2015.











2. Make a splash! – Every time Atlanta Streets Alive happens (4 times in 2015) the program starts with a bicycle parade led by a flock of bicycle phoenixes curated by a local artist. It’s something really amazing to watch and always draws a crowd.










3. Don’t forget to evaluate your program – Evaluation not only helps you make the case for its future, whether you’re trying to find sponsorship funding or maybe make your route longer but it also contributes to a growing body of research. With the results of this research we can begin to influence policy that would allow for more streamlined implementation of Open Streets programs. So be sure to follow best practices and be consistent in what you’re evaluating.

Ryerson University students volunteer to collect information from Open Streets Toronto participants. Photo credit: Jeremy Korn











4. We’re just learning to crawl – Gil Penalosa ended the weekend with an inspiring keynote presentation where he put this message bluntly. Open Streets have come a long way in a short amount of time in Canada and the United States but we’re just learning to crawl. To have the impact that programs like Bogota’s Ciclovia has on a city in terms of health, engagement, inclusion, and transportation, we still have a long way to go. It’s doable but we have a long journey ahead of us.

Gil Penalosa speaking with Rebecca Serna, President of the Atlanta Bicycle
Coalition and Ceasar C. Mitchell, President of Atlanta City Council.











5. Let’s act as a movement – There are more than 100 Open Streets programs that have been implemented in the last 5 years in the United States and Canada. We have an incredible opportunity to influence change in these countries in terms of the way we plan, change, and use our streets and cities. We need to work together to harness that opportunity which means we need to move beyond conversations that only talk about logistics and start having a dialogue about how we can amplify the impact of the collective Open Streets movement.

The Future of Atlanta, at Atlanta Streets Alive.











The Open Streets Summit included two days of discussion with plenary sessions from leaders in the open streets field and concurrent sessions to focus on specific components of these programs such as route planning, making the case for health, and evaluation. The Summit was hosted in Atlanta so participants could then apply what they learned and actually participate in an Open Streets program as Atlanta Streets Alive was on the Sunday of the weekend.

The next Open Streets Summit will be August 18 – 21, 2016 in Portland, OR and will feature Portland’s Sunday Bikeways.

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