Bend Open Streets: Opening Our Streets, Connecting Our Community

BOS-PNGBy Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Bend Open Streets is coming September 18th to a neighborhood near you! Bring your bicycle or just your feet, and get ready to explore your community streets in a safe, healthy, livable way. Bend Open Streets will temporarily close streets to automobile traffic, so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and shopping locally.

Open Streets are part of a broader city effort to encourage sustained physical activity, increase community engagement, build support for broader transportation choices, and promote a vibrant economy. The goal is to connect the community and allow residents to fully use our streets in a fun, active environment—without cars. It will build awareness of sustainable transportation options and increase neighborhood livability and connectivity.

Not to be confused with a block party, street fair or one of the many local festivals, Bend Open Streets will be unique in several ways. There is no beer garden, large music venue or booths for selling goods. It will be dog friendly, so you can bring your four-legged family member. Perhaps the best part? It will be totally free for everyone.

Open Streets is not a new idea. It is inspired by Bogota, Columbia’s world famous “ciclovia”, where every Sunday and public holiday from 7am to 2pm, certain streets are closed to cars for walkers, runners, and cyclists. Currently, 160 towns and cities of all sizes in the U.S. have Open Streets, from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California. Atlanta, Georgia has one of the largest initiatives in the country with an 8-mile long stretch of open streets. In 2015, they estimated that 300,000 residents came out to enjoy their city.

Brian Potwin, Education Coordinator for Commute Options is the lead planner for the initiative. “Imagine the city’s largest park, where people can hang out, run, bike, skate, dance, walk their dog and discover their city. This is what we envision for this upcoming pilot project, Bend Open Streets. We are working closely with the City of Bend and garnering tremendous community support from organizations that have similar goals to get people physically active, increase community health, promote public spaces and create a vibrant local economy.”

“Rates of active transportation are a result of a complex set of factors that are unique in every community. In Bend, there is tremendous unrealized potential. Census data shows roughly 5% of the community bikes or walks to work. At roughly only 9 miles north-south and 5 miles east-west, Bend’s size should allow for higher active transportation rates. Through Bend Open Streets initiatives and focused outreach efforts we can introduce active transportation in safe, comfortable and fun ways,” says City of Bend Transportation Engineer Robin Lewis.

Commute Options is also collaborating with Oregon Department of Transportation, the Orchard District Neighborhood Association, the Larkspur District Neighborhood Association, Bend Bikes, Cascade East Transit, Bend 2030, the Maker’s District and Bend Parks and Recreation.

Join us for the first ever Bend Open Streets!

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.

SIDE BAR:

Bend Open Streets Pilot Project

Date: Sunday, September 18, 2016
Time: Noon – 4pm
Location: Bend’s Central District. The borders of Bend Open Streets will be NE Olney Ave, NE 6th Street, NE Hawthorne Ave, and NE 1st Street.
Who Can Participate: Everyone!

Learn more at www.bendopenstreets.org. Follow on Twitter @bendopenstreets and Instagram at bendopenstreets.