Around the world, cities are transforming busy streets into public spaces, if only for a few blissful hours. These open streets festivals create safe, healthy recreation areas for residents and help cities carve out space for biking, walking, skating, rolling, strolling, stretching, and even dancing.
Today’s open street festivals are inspired by ciclovías, which began in the 1970s when Bogotá, Colombia began to close some of its streets to cars each Sunday. The idea spread throughout South America and caught on globally a few decades later; now cities everywhere have created their own celebrations of non-motorized transit. Although these interventions are usually temporary, open streets often lead to real-world change: These small-scale activations often help residents to envision a city designed to promote walking and biking year-round.
I’ve collected nine open streets festivals from around the world and listed the next date they’re happening (some happen weekly, and, if so, I’ve noted that). Please share any events I might have missed. Even better, if you’re interested in launching a car-free festival in your city, head over to Open Streets Project for tips on how to get started!
CicLAvia, Los Angeles
Photo by Gary Leonard for CicLAvia
The largest open streets festival in the U.S. happens three times a year in Los Angeles, where over 100,000 people take to car-free streets in different neighborhoods. The April 6 event will travel six miles along Wilshire Boulevard, and, later in 2014, the route will go to South L.A.
Muévete en Bici, Mexico City
Photo via Muévete en Bici
Every Sunday, Mexico City shuts down 14 miles of streets, including the extra-wide Paseo de la Reforma for bikers and walkers. Over 80,000 participants can be seen on any given Sunday, many of them riding bikes from EcoBici, the city’s bike-sharing program.
Atlanta Streets Alive, Atlanta
Photo by Tim
Atlanta opens several miles of streets throughout the year for Atlanta Streets Alive. On April 20 the festival will close a 2.7-mile loop in the West End, and in May the city’s Peachtree Street will be closed from Downtown to Midtown.
Summer Streets, New York City
Photo by NYCDOT
Each summer, a long corridor throughout Manhattan that stretches along Park Avenue is closed to cars for “part bike tour, part walking tour, part block party.” The dates for 2014 have not been announced yet, but Summer Streets usually takes place on three Sundays in August.
Yom Kippur, Tel Aviv
Photo by Moti Milrod/AP
While not an official car-free festival, Israelis observe Yom Kippur (which is Friday October 3 to Saturday October 4 this year) by not driving motor vehicles, and Tel Aviv is effectively transformed into a deserted city. The quiet city lures bikers and walkers out into the empty streets—and even the freeways.
Photo by Mairie de Paris/Anne Thomes
For about a month every summer in Paris, the streets along the Seine are not only banned to cars, they are also transformed into “plages” or beaches, which include sand, umbrellas, beach chairs, and actual temporary pools. The plages are installed for July and August.
Car Free Day, Jakarta
Photo by Gunawan Kartapranata
Jakarta’s infamous traffic is curbed by weekly car-free days starting at 6:00 a.m. in two of the city’s busiest centers: Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin. To help reduce emissions, in 2012 the once-monthly car-free days became weekly, now happening every Sunday.
Sunday Streets, San Francisco
Photo via Sunday Streets
San Francisco’s Sunday Streets heads to a different neighborhood each month from March to October. Next up is a loop in the Tenderloin on April 13, and a summer route will close the Great Highway along the Pacific Ocean from the San Francisco Zoo to Golden Gate Park.
Photo by natigarcia
The original open streets event is still going strong more than 30 years after it began. Bogotá now closes up to 80 miles of cars every week and it’s estimated that 30 percent of the city’s population participates.
Want to share a free, accessible-to-the-public open streets event in your city? Be sure to include a link for more information, and a photo if you’ve got one!
Top photo by NYCDOT