Onward and Upward: A Recap of the Open Streets Summit

On August 18-21 leaders in the Open Streets movement met in Portland for the 4th annual Open Streets Summit and I was lucky enough to be there and to represent 8 80 Cities.  From the crowd of nearly 200 people –representing cities around the world –  it’s easy to see that this movement is growing and maturing.

An announcement that we were excited to be a part of is a new partnership! We have officially joined forces with The Street Plans Collaborative as the non-profit partner in The Open Streets Project. The Streets Plans Collaborative was a founding partner in this online resource center for Open Streets organizers and we’re excited to be a part of the Project’s future. We believe that together we’re going to be able to do great things for stakeholders of all varieties in this movement.

A trend that was palpable at the Summit was that of Open Streets growth. The sheer number of Open Streets is increasing around the world – at the time of the Summit there were close to 130 unique Open Streets that had taken place in the United States since 2012.  Open Streets programs are also growing from one day events to multi-day programs and cities are hungry for new ideas and resources to make their Open Streets better.  Conversations are moving away from “how do I convince so and so to do Open Streets?” to “How do we convince our city council that we need more resources to make Open Streets a regular program?”.  Even despite budget shortages and nay-saying political figures Open Streets advocates and organizers are making things happen!

But critical questions are also being asked about what we need to do as a movement to push beyond the boundaries that permitting, insurance, traffic management, and marketing costs have created for these programs. And while we started these conversations at the Summit we have a long way to go in finishing them.  So, we’re making it our priority to keep the conversation going as part of the Open Streets Project and it’s our hope that we’ll be able to help create more robust Open Streets programs around the world.

Special thanks to Linda Gienthal and Rex Burkeholder and their team from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland State University, & PSU’s Transportation Research & Education Center for all their hard work in putting on a spectacular event.

Photo credit: Gonzalo Stierling Aguayo

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