OPEN STREETS Columbus is part of a growing initiative that temporarily closes streets to automobiles to allow people to use them for healthy and fun physical activities like walking, jogging, biking and dancing. The initiative essentially returns streets to their historic origin as a place for people.
Yours truly is on the organizing committee that advocates for our streets to be opened to people. Our group is an eclectic bunch that has organically come together to bring Open Streets to Columbus.
Today, there are more than 90 Open Streets initiatives in the United States and Canada. People traffic replaces car traffic, and the streets become “paved parks” where people of all ages and abilities and of all social, economic or ethnic backgrounds can come out to improve their mental, physical and emotional health.
Open Streets is different from a festival or street fair because the core objectives are fundamentally different. Indeed, Open Streets are typically part of a broader city or organizational effort to encourage sustained physical activity, increase community engagement and build support for the provision of broader transportation choices.
Overall the first event was well received by participants. More than100 surveys were completed and they revealed that the average stay for attendees was about three hours. A majority of respondents indicated they would spend more than $10 if the event was held on a commercial corridor. Businesses would be clever to support an Open Streets event for the economic impact alone. An overwhelming majority of respondents even favor a monthly Open Streets event!
In the long term, Open Streets Columbus is expected to evolve into a recurring city program that will expand beyond Downtown, connect more communities, attract more residents and bring more recreational opportunities to an even larger population. The main challenge lies with funding because the lion’s share of funds goes to cover the costs of barricades and law enforcement. Ideally, future sponsors will help the burgeoning Open Streets movement become signature events throughout the year on iconic Columbus streets.