Saturday, May 1, 2010

Open Streets: A Great Way to See Downtown

Looking East from 16th Street and Locust Street
Today was the first of four Open Streets events in St. Louis, giving walkers, joggers, bikers, and skaters an opportunity to enjoy a vehicle-free route stretching from Forest Park to downtown.  The next three events (with a different route) will be held on Sunday, June 13th (featuring Trailnet's Bike St. Louis City Tour and an opportunity to watch the Tour de Grove), Sunday September 19th (featuring a "Bike to Busch" event), and Saturday, October 9th.

My wife, kids (in a bike trailer) and I used the first Open Streets as an opportunity to explore downtown, rather than ride the entire route from Forest Park (next time!).  In all, this was a great, really fun event.  Here are a couple of thoughts on how it can be even better.

So Close, Yet So Far Away
First, what a shame that a 6.5+ mile ride ends (or begins, depending on which way you go) less than a half mile from the Arch and the river.  Imagine if the route took you all the way into the Memorial, culminating in family-friendly events on the waterfront.  This is a perfect example of the gross underutilization of the very best features of the City.  Hopefully, this will not be an issue once the infrastructure barrier problem is mitigated (or better yet, completely eliminated) upon completion of the Memorial improvements in 2015.  In the meantime, I would suggest that the route at least be extended further east to allow participants to see and enjoy even more of our beautiful downtown.

Second, I don't know what level of attendance/participation was expected, but there is no reason we can't do better next time.  I'm not sure when this event was first announced, but I didn't hear about it until blogged about it this past Monday.  Subsequently, not one single person I mentioned it to or asked to join me had heard about it.   Maybe this first event wasn't announced until this past week, but if it was earlier than that, the City has got to do a better job in communicating to the public for subsequent events.

I think we can, and should, help in that regard.  Let's view Open Streets as an opportunity to invite people who might not otherwise be favorably disposed toward downtown to come and view it in a new light.  It's great that people who are inclined to participate in these sort of urban events do participate--but I don't think that's enough.  Let's get new people downtown.  It's the old idea of changing "hearts and minds," one person at a time.  I believe that just getting people down there is half the challenge, and that once there, most people could not help but appreciate and enjoy the beautiful built environment the rest of us love.

Louderman Lofts and Rooster restaurant, 11th Street and Locust Street
So here's a challenge (and I hope that Open Streets does not mind my piggy-backing on their event, the purpose of which is not specifically to promote our downtown).  I would ask everyone who reads this to do what they can to get the word out about Open Streets, with a goal of getting at least ten people who would not otherwise have participated (or, perhaps, even known about the event) to attend the next event in June.  I don't know if ten is the right number--hopefully most people could get many more than that.  Let's use this as an opportunity to bring to downtown people who would not otherwise go, even people who think they don't even like the City.  This goes to something that Alex at mentioned to me in an e-mail: that those interested in downtown revitalization need to work to "move out of the echo chamber . . . and really have an impact on the city."  So, let's shout it from the rooftops folks--and see you in June!

End of the Line at 8th Street and Locust Street

Detour to Citygarden

1 comment:

  1. Notice all the green shirts at the ride? It's because Boeing brought 400 employees out to the ride. It's a great idea to promote active transportation and fun...encourage your company, church, daycare, school, neighborhood groups, knitting group, happy-hour crew, whatever to participate. I loved it. We should definitely be doing our part to promote it.