The Debut of Open Streets Owosso: PHOTO ESSAY

This weekend saw the launch of yet another Open Streets event modeled on the successes of similar car-free street events in cities like Bogotá, Portland, Los Angeles, and Detroit.

But what was slightly different this time was the size of the town involved. Owosso sits in the middle of Michigan agricultural land and has a population of just over 15,000 people.

Organized through the Owosso Main Street Promotions and Outreach Committee, Open Streets Owosso looked and felt just like any big city open streets event: streets blocked off from automobile traffic for people to enjoy the public commons on bike, on foot, on skateboard, anything human powered.

There were food trucks, DJs and other street musicians, tons of street chalk, face painting for kids. Local bike shop House of Wheels (in business for 45 years) donated a $1,000 gift certificate, the winner of which was announced during the event. The route itself consisted of 17 blocks of the historic downtown, and connected to a bike-ped trail and parks that runs along the Shiawassee river. Hundreds of people biked or walked throughout the day.

What was so surprising to see during the event, and even during the planning process, was how enthusiastic people and businesses were for this. Portland, Oregon’s Sunday Parkways events are wildly successful due to a high level of organization involving multiple bureaus, agencies, and business parters. It’s a huge endeavor with a large budget.

Open Streets Owosso, however, was organized by just a handful of people, had only a few major sponsors, yet still had wide support from organizations like the Steam Railroading Institute, the Shiawassee County Chamber of Commerce, and the Owosso Historical Commission.

Unlike many small post-industrial cities, Owosso and it’s businesses have innovated a thriving, walkable downtown, and regularly shuts down streets for timed events. It also has an established bike scene with regular organized rides, as well as existing on and off street cycling infrastructure with much more coming soon.

As this was the first time Owosso attempted this type of open streets event, there were a few snags, but nothing that wasn’t addressed or couldn’t easily be improved in the future. By all accounts this was a community success, and will surely continue to positively develop in the future. Owosso has followed a strong main street model that should be replicated widely. Truly, if you can pull off open streets in Owosso, Michigan you can do it anywhere.

See you in the streets.

All photographs copyright Rebel Metropolis for use only by permission.