Open Streets

Seeing streets in a new way.

Streets that are safe and welcoming for people on foot and people on bikes help make neighborhoods healthier. 

What comes to mind for you when you hear the phrase “public space?” If you’re like most people, you think of parks, plazas or public squares. But what about streets? Most of us don’t see streets as places for people, aside from the occasional parade or block party. Although they are one of our most essential public spaces, most of us think of streets solely as places for cars, parking, and the transporting of goods.    

Worldwide Movement

But change is underfoot. Thanks to the work of national organizations like the Alliance for Biking and Walking and their Open Streets Project, and international organizations like 8 80 Cities, there’s a growing worldwide movement to make streets places for people, not just cars. In Minnesota we are progressing from streets designed to get cars and trucks from point A to point B and shifting focus to other transportation options. Open Streets initiatives play an important role in creating community support for these changes by allowing people to experience streets in a new way.

The core idea of Open Streets is to support physical activity and to broaden transportation choices.  The streets are closed to vehicle traffic and turned into safe places to walk, bike, play and connect with neighbors.

Growth in Minnesota

And the idea is taking hold. Minneapolis Open Streets started on Lyndale Avenue in 2010 and has expanded to eight events in 2015, in locations throughout the city. Through these events communities have learned about and experienced riding on protected bikeways, resulting in support for new bikeways planned in the city. Streets Alive! in Fargo/Moorhead has also been going strong since 2010, expanding to 3 events in 2015. Organizers use Streets Alive! events as an opportunity to show people how to make streets safer for people walking, people biking and people driving.

The Center for Prevention has played a role in supporting Open Streets and similar events designed to promote physical activity since 2010. This includes funding specific events, hosting trainings, and technical assistance. In August of 2013, in collaboration with the Open Streets Project, we hosted the first ever National Open Streets Summit, where national organizers came together in in Minneapolis to learn from each other and exchange ideas.  We are the presenting sponsor for Open Streets Minneapolis and Streets Alive! in 2015.

See what happened when we were a sponsor of the Greenway Experience Open Streets event in North Minneapolis. 

Related links

  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.