Written by Andrew Lynch
Open Streets events take place in cities big and small all over the world.
The idea is to close a street to cars and open it to people for a few hours during the summer — or maybe even every week.
For Open Streets Wausau, we closed 3rd Street from Washington Street (beginning at the Wausau Center Mall) to Wausau Avenue (ending at Athletic Park) to car traffic on a Sunday afternoon.
Participants could walk or ride up the street, stopping at various activities, having a bite to eat, or learning something new about the community and then they could return south on the River’s Edge Trail and back to Downtown Wausau.
Check out this AMAZING drone video footage of the event shot by photographer Chad Lemmens…
This was a great event to provide community members of all ages with a unique experience as they headed outdoors, got some exercise, and had FUN.
Below are the Top 10 Things You Need to Bring an “Open Streets” Event to YOUR Community…
- Experience—Attend an Open Streets event in the local area or travel further afield to Green Bay or Minneapolis. Seeing an event in action helps later in the process when you’re trying to explain this idea to others.
- Partners—Find an organization or individual who has run an Open Streets event before. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the Wausau River District, and their support has been invaluable.
- The Right Size—One size does NOT fit all in this context. Cities large and small have events that range from a couple of blocks to several miles of city streets. Be sure to determine the size that’s right for your community.
- A Unique Route—Beyond simply finding and providing a car-free street, try to choose an interesting route that people might not normally experience.
- Political Support—Having the support of the local government is a must. From obtaining an event permit to closing roads with the help of the Public Works Department to controlling intersections with assistance of the Police Department—none of it can move forward without forming allies at the local government level.
- Volunteers—No event can run well without volunteer support. In fact, now that I’ve hosted an event and have come to realize how important volunteers are in making events like these run smoothly, I plan on volunteering my own time to other community events.
- Media—Make sure you spread the word through every type of media available. Social media is relatively cheap, but it takes time to maintain and push your event. Traditional media can be more expensive, but they’re very effective in reaching a large, captive audience. Using a wide range of media types may net you a larger age range of event participants as well.
- An Unveiling—Oftentimes, cities will use Open Streets events to highlight new roads, trails, bike lanes, or developments. Taking this angle can help create excitement around the event, as it may be the first exposure people have to the element the city wishes to promote or unveil.
- Evaluation—It’s important to critically evaluate and share the successes and failures of the event. This way you can improve on your event for next time and keep it fresh for repeat attendees.
- FUN—All it takes for participants to enjoy an Open Streets event is a heartbeat. Seriously. This style of event is truly enjoyable for all!
If you’d like to host an Open Streets event in your neck of the woods, I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned. Email me to chat.
Transportation Planner | Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization
As a Transportation Planner for the Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization, Andrew gets to work on projects dealing with roads, bicycling, and transit, to name a few. He received his master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Iowa. Andrew enjoys being able to bring his passion for biking, walking, and fun to Marathon County. He lives in Wausau with his wife, two kids, one dog, and three bikes. Email Andrew Lynch
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