Open Streets is an event that temporarily closes streets to automobile traffic and opens them up to people for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing, and socializing. The first Open Streets began as a Ciclovia in Bogotá, Columbia in 1976. In Bogotá closes 74 miles of streets every Sunday and holiday from 7 am to 2 pm so that people may enjoy the open streets through all forms of physical activity (walking, bicycling, skating, yoga, aerobics), music, and other fun activities. Currently, almost 2 million people attend Bogotá’s weekly ciclovias.
From Bogotá, the event has spread to countries all around the world. Currently, North America has 80 documented Open Streets events. The size and style of event varies from place to place but the goal remains the same: to temporarily close a street or combination of streets to automobile traffic and open them up to people for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing, and socializing.
On a local level, since 2010 Missoula has been hosting an Open Streets event, Sunday Streets Missoula, twice a year. The event has grown from 3500 participants to well over 6000. What began as closing 0.8 miles of Higgins twice each year has grown to incorporate one of Missoula’s neighborhoods. The new route closed 1.3 miles of road and connected the hosting neighborhood to downtown Missoula. Sunday Streets Missoula is scheduled to host one event in a neighborhood and one on Higgins Ave. each year with a possibility of expanding the event to include more neighborhoods throughout the year. Participants can enjoy the Open Streets on their bicycles, skateboards, or scooters while stopping by businesses and organizations that are hosting activities such as the slowest bike race, yoga in the park, or chalk art in the streets. To make the event possible, Missoula In Motion has partnered with Missoula Parks and Recreation, Missoula Office of Neighborhoods, and the Downtown Business Improvement District of Missoula as well as many other local sponsors.
In 2012, Helena decided to hold their first Open Streets event. This was a collaborative effort between interested individuals, downtown businesses, Bike Walk Helena, and the City-County Health Department. The event only covered two blocks of Last Chance Gulch for three hours but had a few hundred attendees, including the Mayor. It was very well received and people had a great time bicycling, playing bike polo, participating in a bike parade and foot race and watching all kinds of demonstrations like Irish Dancing, Judo, Zumba, and more. Helena plans to hold an Open Streets event once or twice a year.
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