Behind the Scenes of Open Streets

Most people who know Our Streets Minneapolis (formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition) know our biggest event Open Streets Minneapolis. Our Streets hosted the first Open Streets Minneapolis event in 2011 after working with the city for two years to make it happen. Slowly through the last seven years, we have increased the number and locations of Open Streets events. This summer we had seven Open Streets events!

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Open Streets Franklin 2017. Credit: Frances Stevenson.

Open Streets opens our streets to people to walking, biking, and rolling by temporarily closing a portion of roadway--usually two or more miles--to automobile traffic. More than a street festival, Open Streets Minneapolis gives residents an opportunity to explore their neighborhood and local businesses in a safe, fun, and family-friendly way. Through active transportation and healthy living, Open Streets gives residents an opportunity to rethink our streets as public space. The goals of Open Streets are:

  • Grow community connections, civic pride, and community engagement
  • Celebrate the diversity of Minneapolis
  • Inspire healthy living
  • Stimulate local business
  • Promote active transportation

 

The first step to creating Open Streets is selecting the route locations. Each year, Open Streets solicits route ideas from the public, allowing anyone to submit an application for a route idea for any street or streets in Minneapolis. From the submitted route applications, up to eight are selected to become Open Streets events that year. Applications are chosen based on a number of criteria in a process overseen by the City of Minneapolis. Evaluation criteria include local community and business support, logistical feasibility, and the route's potential to accomplish the goals of Open Streets.

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Open Streets Franklin 2017. Credit: Frances Stevenson.

With the events selected for the year, Our Streets then moves to the next step of the process: working with community stakeholders to planning each event. Community stakeholders include local residents, neighborhood organizations, business associations, community groups, schools, non-profits and anyone else interested in helping to make their Open Streets a success. It is the vision and efforts of these groups and individuals that make each event unique and fun!

As the event approaches, City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Department, Metro Transit, and other local government agencies prepare for the logistical elements of the event. Each of these entities plays a crucial role in the success of Open Streets including traffic, public safety, food safety, and permitting. Their hard work and continued support makes Open Streets safe and accessible for everyone.

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West Broadway Open Streets 2017. Credit: Frances Stevenson.

Open Streets is run primarily by volunteers (like most of the events Our Streets puts on) so a lot of the background work weeks following up to an Open Streets event is recruiting volunteers to keep the event running. The week before the event, Our Street staff spends a lot of time calling past volunteers to make sure the Open Streets event is fully staffed and running smoothly.

The day before the event Our Streets staff packs up all the tents, tables, chairs, t-shirts, and everything that is needed for the event. The morning of, staff and volunteers load supplies into a large moving van full of supplies and drive it over to the Open Streets location. All of the other organizations that will have tables or tents at the event will bring their own tents and tables. At 11 am, the police start to usher cars off the area starting from the center of the route, blocking it off as they go. Once the area is free of cars, staff and volunteers unpack the van and set up the tents, pop-ups, kid zone, and everything else. Other vendors, restaurants, food trucks, start showing up around the same time and set their booths/areas up.

People start arriving soon after the street is shut down to automobile traffic and the event starts up and until 5pm the street is open to foot and bicycle traffic only.

We had a great season this year with seven successful Open Streets! We are currently in the process of reviewing the route applications for 2018 Open Streets. Thank you to everyone who helped makes these events successful!

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West Broadway Open Streets 2017. Credit: Frances Stevenson.