"St. Louis Open Streets to be model for national movement"

Today Washington University in St. Louis announced a report showing the value of the St. Louis Open Streets program.

Open Streets, which in St. Louis is organized by Mayor Slay's office, closes down a section of streets through a neighborhood to motorized traffic, leaving the neighborhood as a perfect place to walk, bicycle, roller skate, and enjoy other community activities.

Open Streets Initiatives, a movement growing around the United States, open urban spaces normally reserved for cars to people, providing a safe environment for socializing and other activities. The goal of the events is to promote healthy living and community building.

Researchers at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, evaluated the 2011 St. Louis Open Streets Initiative to examine participation in the events.

St. Louis Open Streets, held over two weekends in Oct., brought bicycling, walking and other diverse events to streets in Old North St. Louis and The Grove neighborhoods.

“With over 1,800 participants in 2011 and leadership from the mayor’s office, St. Louis has the potential to become a model and leader in the Open Streets movement,” says J. Aaron Hipp, PhD, assistant professor of public health at the Brown School.

“Open Streets events allow cities to showcase its infrastructure and neighborhoods from a different vantage point and to new populations. Riding a bike or walking down a street that you may otherwise drive or bus down brings an entirely new perspective. People realize how close destinations are by foot and bike, such as the market, restaurant, park and school.”

Brown School researchers looked at how participants spent their time at 2011 St. Louis Open Streets events.

Hipp and Amy Eyler, PhD, research associate professor at the Brown School, found that St. Louis Open Streets attendees spent an average of 108 minutes at the events.

On the economic front, 73 percent of participants spent money at a restaurant or store on the event route and 68 percent became newly aware of a store or restaurant during the event.

Eyler and Hipp also found that at least 94 percent of the participants felt that Open Streets events are welcoming to everyone, strengthen the community, are safe and positively change people’s feelings about the city.

“Neighborhoods are showcased during these events,” Hipp says

“Over half of the participants are from outside the city, much less the neighborhood. These participants will certainly identify new areas to explore and hopefully feel pride and a sense of safety and togetherness in the city and region. These goals are ambitious, but all of these have potential and I think our results show this happening already.”

Read the full report here.

A similar report analyzing Ciclovia type events in four countries found that the health benefits of the events far outweight the cost:

The results of all this number-crunching showed that these programs are definitely worth the investment because they reduce health costs and allow people to live longer — and therefore more economically productive — lives.

The study analyzed the costs and participation numbers of four ciclovia events: the original Ciclovia in Bogota; the Via RecreActiva in Guadalajara (which I participated in back in 2009); the Medellin Ciclovia; and the Sunday Streets events in San Francisco (which are similar to our Sunday Parkways).

Taking San Francisco’s Sunday Streets program as an example, the researchers found that with the event’s total annual project cost of $1.7 million (based on 52 events) and an annual cost per capita of $70.50, the projected cost-benefit ratio was 2.32. “This indicated savings in direct medical costs of US $2.3 for every dollar invested in the program if the program occurs regularly every week.” (*Note: The SF event only happens nine times but the researchers based their calculations on a weekly event projection.)

Several Missouri cities are now operating or planning regular Open Streets events (also known as Ciclovia, Sunday Parkways, and other similar names), including St. Louis, Kansas City, and Ferguson.

One of the goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri was to promote open streets/ciclovia events across the state.  These events are one of the best ways to encourage more of our citizens to enjoy bicycling and walking in their communities and neighborhoods.

With your help, we are realizing that vision--with no Ciclovia festivals in Missouri in 2007, one in 2008, and seven in 2010, even more in 2011, and yet more planned for 2012.

The concept can work in large cities or small.  Find out how to plan a ciclovia festival in your city or see how Portland does it.



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