crowd enjoying open streets lyndale in 2017

Every Sunday in Bogotá, Colombia, over 70 miles of streets are closed to motor vehicle traffic and opened to the community. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one million people are able to cycle, roll, and walk freely down the main streets of the city without fear of cars, noise pollution, and exhaust fumes. This is Ciclovía: the event that inspired the Open Streets movement around the world. Since 1974, Ciclovía has been a beloved part of Bogotán city life.

crowd enjoying open streets lyndale in 2017

Ciclovía was also an inspiration for Open Streets Minneapolis, our city’s own annual series of car-free celebrations. Open Streets Minneapolis has become a hallmark of summer for many Minneapolis residents since first launching in 2011. The community-driven events invite attendees to imagine what our streets and public spaces could look like if they were made for people, not cars. 

“The way we move in our city impacts our lives every day. When a city is designed for cars at the expense of people, what does that say about our priorities as a community?” says Ember Rasmussen, our Community Development & Events Manager. “Walkable cities, all-summer closures, and fully-pedestrianized corridors are some of the things we will continue to advocate for as an organization, and Open Streets Minneapolis gives us the opportunity to imagine what’s possible in our city when we put people first.” 

We have dreams of expanding to regular or permanent street closures similar to Ciclovía, but our Minneapolis event series and route selection process is limited by funding. The City of Minneapolis contracts Our Streets Minneapolis to organize the events for $0, and Rasmussen is our only full-time staff member dedicated to the event series. Open Streets Minneapolis hosts more than 50,000 participants and over 600 unique vendors each summer. The events are tailored to each unique corridor through intentional partnerships. The hallmark Minneapolis events rely heavily on community and volunteer support.

So how do we select street closure routes within these limitations?

Every year, we work with the City of Minneapolis to select dates and routes. Open Streets Minneapolis has a rich history of corridors that have participated over the past decade, and we’re excited to continue to bring the event to neighborhoods that have never hosted the event before. Over the last two years, we have begun to prioritize new event corridors that lack existing public space or are harmed by past and present transportation planning decisions. 

For example, this year we selected a new route through Cedar Riverside. In the 1960s, the construction of I-94  displaced 24,000 people and businesses in Minneapolis alone, primarily in Cedar Riverside and Seward. Today, Cedar Riverside is the most racially diverse neighborhood in the Twin Cities. Though the neighborhood is hemmed in by highways, 41% of residents do not own a car. It also is home to vibrant arts and business communities: Cedar Avenue is packed with theaters, music venues, and restaurants.  We chose this area to engage the local community and uplift local businesses as a small way to start highlighting and addressing the historic harms of the highway in Cedar Riverside while continuing the neighborhood’s tradition of similar events, like the Cedarfest celebration of years past.

“Every year, some people are thrilled to find they are near a new route, but others are saddened not to see their neighborhood on the calendar,” says Rasmussen. “I wish we could do more, but until we have more resources, we do our best to host events that celebrate and center Minneapolis’s diverse and vibrant communities and that advance public health, climate, racial, and economic justice for all our neighbors.”

We encourage you to explore events outside your neighborhood. Each Open Streets Minneapolis event is a distinct celebration of the wonderfully unique people and places that call our city home. No matter the event, you’ll always find the freedom to move without fear of cars, the joy of connection with your neighbors, and a whole lot of fun. If you share our dreams of Ciclovía in Minneapolis and want more Open Streets events, please consider donating to help expand into additional summer street closures in future seasons.