Open Streets programs, also known as Ciclovias, open streets to people and close them to cars encouraging participation in physical activity and healthy recreation. They are free, regularly occurring programs, and offer communities the opportunity to experience their city streets in a whole new way. At Open Streets there are no finish lines, parades, or sidewalk sales and this is something that sets Open Streets apart from other events like marathons or street festivals. Open Streets can provide stimulus to local businesses, offer a setting for greater civic participation and integration, and build support for the provision of broader transportation choices.
Medellin, Colombia is the birth place of Ciclovia, but since its inception many international cities have since adopted and adapted the tradition as their own. Below are a few examples of how other cities have celebrated their most valuable public space - their streets!
In an effort to encourage New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation, approximately seven miles of New York City's streets are ruled car-free for three consecutive Saturdays in the middle of summer. Not only are the streets opened up to cyclists, runners and walkers alike, they are also filled with outdoor activities that encourage New Yorkers to get outside and get active. In 2012, Summer Streets had an outdoor rock climbing wall, a zipline and a large picnic area.
Summer Streets is run by NYC's Department of Transportation, which also partners with the city's five boroughs to present Weekend Walks. From May through October, Weekend Walks are hosted in neighbourhoods all over the city by creating temporary pedestrian-only streets, allowing residents to get out and enjoy local businesses and cultural institutions.
The Via RecreActiva is Guadalajara Mexico’s Open Streets program. Started by a civic organization of business people in 2004, the Via RecreActiva is now a government operated Open Streets program that sees 65km of streets opened from 8:00am-2:00pm every Sunday. The Via RecreActiva has over 400,000 participants every Sunday of the year.
Every Sunday, from Victoria Day weekend to Labour Day, over 50 kilometres of parkways in Ottawa and Gatineau Park are reserved for cyclists (and runners, bladers, and walkers). The routes allow cyclists to experience the beauty of the Rideau Canal, Ottawa River or Gatineau Park in an environmentally sustainable way.
The program in Ottawa is sponsored by Nokia, with various routes being sponsored by different corporations or individuals. The program is run predominantly by volunteers.