The Benefits of Closing a Street

Open Streets temporary projects are great, but what's the point if they don't lead to permanent changes?

We need to move beyond Open Streets and start taking concepts that work on a temporary basis and make them permanent features.

Open Streets closes down auto-oriented streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul along major corridors and opens them up to pedestrians, cyclists, strollers and skaters for one-time events. The transformation is astonishingly beautiful. But, when the streets turn back into uninhabitable congested roadway the following day I’m left asking myself, “What’s the point?”

This is a common question. If not permanent, then what?

Herein lies a perception problem with tactical urbanism and Ciclovia-styled events. They must go beyond the event and aim for a greater good. Open Streets must be a tactic in a broader strategy, and merely raising awareness may not be enough to accomplish their mission of enhancing healthy living, local business, sustainable transportation and civic pride. The goal of tactical urbanism is to be a testing ground, and this should be the selling point for the start of the project.

I mean no disrespect to Open Streets. I admire and applaud the organizers. They’re an excellent organization and I support them 100 percent. But, among all their other much needed work, there must be collaboration on behalf of the cities beyond just permitting it. They must join forces to help make these important infrastructure adjustments the other 364 days of the year.

One of the best examples is in Minneapolis: Milwaukee Avenue.