Elected Officials

Create Open Streets

Temporarily closing streets to automobiles and organizing public activities to encourage healthier transportation and living habits.

Guidance
  • Build political, financial, and community support early on. Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance used foundation funding to take local officials to cities with Open Streets initiatives. Once they experienced the event firsthand, Chicago officials started championing a car-free event of their own
  • Create a coalition of stakeholders and coordinate regularly with city, community, and law-enforcement partners
  • Identify a lead project manager
  • Allow enough time for the permitting process (deadlines vary by jurisdiction)
  • Frame open streets as an economic engine, cultural event, and means to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Brand and promote the program. Market it as a continuous program rather than a one-off event
  • Partner with local groups to establish uniquely local events and bring in attendees
  • Seek nontraditional partners, such as medical foundations, in addition to transportation organizations
  • Hold a follow-up meeting to debrief after each event
Benefits
  • Increases walking and cycling
  • Promotes physical activity
  • Supports local businesses
  • Creates a tourist attraction
  • Creates momentum for improvements in walking and cycling infrastructure
Considerations
  • Funding event needs, including activity organizers, traffic managers/police, street closure permits, volunteer coordinators, event insurance, marketing and outreach
  • Mitigating impacts of rerouted traffic, if any
  • Ensuring emergency access
  • Ensuring public safety of participants
Where to Use It
  • Central thoroughfare
  • Existing walking and biking routes
  • Corridors near tourist, cultural, recreational, or commercial destinations
Professional Consensus
  • The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center lists Car Free Days and provides guidance
  • Open Streets Project lists reports and evaluations of programs, including studies from:
    • Portland, OR: Sunday Parkways
    • Missoula, MT
    • Los Angeles, CA
Examples

More than 70 cities in North and Central America organize versions of Open Streets, including:

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.