As long time readers know, I am a big fan of the Open Streets movement. These events are so important because they change the way participants perceive the roads and streets that serve their communities. Big change begins with small change, and Open Streets events serve as a catalyst to jump start the process in the minds of many people who have never really thought about riding a bicycle for transportation.
And so I thought it might be fun to look at some Open Streets events from around the world, starting in the birthplace of the movement…Bogotá Colombia. I’ve provided links to allow you to drill down should you so desire.
Colombia’s capital city is home to over 8 million people. They’ve been doing Ciclovía here since the late 1970s. They don’t mess around. This year’s Día Sin Carro, a citywide ban on driving private automobiles, removed a staggering 1.4 million automobiles from Bogotá streets. Imagine your city or town being this bold.
In just a few short years, CicLAvia has morphed into a go to and be seen event in the City of Angels. It’s not just downtown, either. The next CicLAvia is to be held in the mostly suburban San Fernando Valley. In fact, Open Streets events are taking the entire country by storm. Cities participating include Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Lincoln, Louisville, Portland, Tucson and dozens of other places in between.
Just last month, central Paris went car free for the first time. As was the case elsewhere, the event was an overwhelming success. More car free days are on the horizon and they may eventually lead to a permanent ban on private automobiles in the city center.
Earlier this month, the Norwegian capital announced plans to permanently ban privately owned automobiles from the city center by 2019. It would be the first world capital to do so and though the area affected is rather small, it sets an important precedent and provides political cover to others who wish to follow suit.
These are world class cities with lots of highly educated people and concentrated economic power. They are staking their claim on the future, a future that is starting to come into focus and a future that looks remarkably different from the recent past. Open Streets are still a novelty, but they are becoming downright pedestrian. People who live in the places that have the best track records in terms of livability and economic success and quality of life are leading the charge and demanding this accommodation. If it’s not happening where you live, be prepared for brain drain.
The world is becoming more crowded. Our cities and suburbs are becoming more densely developed. You’ve probably noticed. It is logical and natural that we move about these new spaces differently than we have for the last seventy years. Change is in the wind, and the Open Street movement brings positive change to communities in a way that is easy to understand.