This Sunday saw the much anticipated Detroit debut of the popular city event series known as Open Streets. Taking a page from similar events like Portland’s Sunday Parkways or LA’s CicLAvia, Open Streets has pushed more metropolises return street use from automobiles back to human beings.
The idea is hardly radical considering the ways in which urban streets have been used for thousands of years prior to the take-over of cars and trucks. While the focus of Open Streets is on fun and recreation, it’s not hard to see how commerce and political speech also flourish in spaces not monopolized by metal machines.
From the event page: “Currently over 200 cities worldwide have established on-going and highly popular Open Streets events. The recent surge in cities creating temporary street parks is widely credited to Ciclovía, a weekly event in Bogotá, Colombia that opens over 70 of miles of city streets to citizens for outdoor physical activity. This event beginning in the mid-1970s and continues to this day with tremendous success attracting up to 2 million participants weekly.”
Detroit’s route stitched together two of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods: Corktown and Mexicantown, running in a single strip down Michigan ave with a slight jog onto Vernor. Along the route were your typical event staples like bouncy castles, foursquare, art making, and children exploring their newfound streetscape.
Businesses enjoyed a splurge of foot traffic, and utilized the additional space on many blocks by extending their merchandise beyond the confines of the narrow sidewalk. No longer constrained by cars, sidewalk chalk could be seen everywhere, containing everything from kids’ drawings to anti-gentrificaion slogans to quickly washed-off vulgarities.
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