Open To People, Closed to Cars: Sunday Street Parties To Take Over City Neighborhoods

May 29, 2015

OpenStreetsPGH will close 3.5 miles of Penn Avenue from Downtown to Lawrenceville for walking, biking and other activities such as yoga and dance.
Credit OpenStreetsPGH.org

Sunday morning, 3.5 miles of roadway will be closed to vehicular traffic in Downtown and beyond for OpenStreetsPGH. The pedestrian festival is meant to get people outside and into the city.

“OpenStreetsPGH is a way to completely reimagine our streets and get people active and healthy and exploring part of the city they’ve probably never gotten to explore car-free before,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh.

The closure runs from Market Square along Penn Avenue and through the Strip District to Lawrenceville. Penn Avenue will be closed from 8 a.m. to noon, but cars will be able to cross at about a dozen locations along the route. 

Anyone can and should participate, Bricker said.

“You can bike, you can walk, you can skate, you can stroll with your kids, walk your dog, but you can also go to one of three different activity hubs: one Downtown, one in the Strip District and one in Lawrenceville,” he said.

Those neighborhoods will include on-street activities like Tai Chi, yoga and dancing. The concept is modeled after a similar event that started in Bogota, Columbia some 30 years ago.

During his candidacy in 2013, Mayor Bill Peduto told Bike Pittsburgh he planned to bring the concept to Pittsburgh in short order. Bicycle and pedestrian planning have been on the forefront of Peduto's leadership ever since.

“Now (Open Streets events) are in over 100 cities in North America and they’re in other parts of the world, too,” Bricker said. “England has a few; it’s really a global movement.”

Last year a pilot “snapshot” event closed four blocks on one summer Sunday and drew about 4,000 participants. Organizers expect thousands more this year with an extended route, about 3.5 miles from end to end.

Sunday will be the first of three events, each held on the last Sunday of May, June and July.