In the days following the closure of Center City, Philadelphia there has been a strong sense of euphoria over the sense of freedom that had with car free streets. Much has been made of the great experience that people had and there has been a tremendous rush to replicate this experience again. In the not so distant future. What has not been discussed is what an Open Streets is and how it works.
How prevalent are Open Streets events? They are held in 246 municipalities in Europe, South America, and in 100 U.S. cities last year.
Contrary to what some people may be under the impression, an Open Streets event is not a bicycle specific event. It is intended for pedestrians, runners, and human/muscle powered vehicles. Such as bicycles, rollerblades, and scooters.
The normal layout for a Open Streets event in the United States involves blocking off 3 to 7 miles of a main road to automotive traffic for about 5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday. With the location being cleared of parked cars and multiple cross streets are kept open to allow automotive traffic to move through the city. Along the route there are stages and stations hosting a wide range of activities. Fitness, yoga, dance, and sports classes are offered. Along with music, dance, and theatre performances.
Open Streets origins dates back to 1974 in Columbia, South America. Where Each Sunday and on public holidays from 7 am until 2 pm certain main streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and other municipalities are blocked off to cars for runners, skaters, and bicyclists. At the same time, stages are set up in city parks. Aerobics instructors, yoga teachers and musicians lead people through various performances. Bogotá's weekly ciclovías are used by approximately 2 million people (about 30% of the population) on 74 miles of car-free streets.
The question that should be asked is, does Philadelphia have the wherewithal to make this a reality? Over the years I have lived in several major cities on the East Coast and Philadelphia never ceases to surprise me. badly. For a major city of its size, Philadelphia residents maintain a small town mentality. Resistant to change and unwilling to make the effort to do so.
While Mayor Nutter is looking into an Open Streets event before his term in office ends and Democratic candidate for Mayor Jim Kenney has expressed an interest in holding one. It remains to be seen if there will be enough positive public pressure to make Open Streets in Philadelphia a reality.