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Lake + Minnehaha Open Streets scheduled July 22

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Shut the traffic down…

By JAN WILLMS
People choose to experience it in different ways.

Whether biking, strolling or rolling, Lake Street and Minnehaha Open Streets will offer visitors a chance to explore the many offerings of this part of Minneapolis without any vehicle traffic on Sun., July 22, from 11am to 5pm.

Starting in the Lyndale neighborhood in 2011, the event has grown to include seven neighborhoods in Minneapolis, opening their streets to pedestrian traffic on different weekends throughout the summer.

“But the idea is much older than that,” said Maria Wardoku (photo right by Jan Willms), president of the board of Our Streets, formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which hosts Open Streets each year. The event began in Bogota, Colombia, in 1974 and is called “Cyclovia” in Spanish-speaking countries. That translates to “cycleway.”

The Lake and Minnehaha Open Streets will run from Chicago to Minnehaha Ave. and then from Lake down Minnehaha to Minnehaha Regional Park, just south of 46th St.

“Businesses are invited to come out onto the street and participate,” Wardoku said. “There are different options for how they can partner with Open Streets. We want to encourage businesses who are on the street or close to it to be a part of the event.”

Wardoku explained that each of the seven Open Streets is unique. “Every year is also different because different partners come out,” she added. She said this year there will be a Midtown-Phillips zone at Lake and 15th Ave., hosted by the Midtown-Phillips Association. “There are going to be stages featuring musicians from the area, a soccer team participating, and Heart of the Beast Theater, among others,” she noted. She mentioned one business along the way will be hosting its grand opening. “It’s an ideal day for people to launch their businesses,” she said. “Where else can you connect with 10,000 people, who mostly live in the area?”

Open Streets is scheduled to happen, rain or shine. “There are certain safety issues we would follow—for example, if there is lightning—but we have had good luck with the weather in the past,” Wardoku said. “One year there were a lot of storms during the summer, but every Open Streets day was nice.”

The first year the event was scheduled in Minneapolis at Lyndale, it attracted a crowd of 5,000. “Last year we had a little longer route in that neighborhood, and 45,000 people came,” Wardoku said. She said E. Lake and Minnehaha is definitely a strong draw for Open Streets also, and 18,500 were in attendance last year. “We have volunteers counting each year,” she added, “and about 101,000 came to all of our Open Streets in 2017.”

A lot of work goes into the planning for Open Streets, according to Wardoku. “We have some down time in the fall and early winter, but most of the year we are focused on engaging businesses on the street and organizations,” she said. So many people are involved in each Open Streets, and keeping the logistics straight can be a big job.

The event is very family-friendly, appealing to all different ages and different cultures.
“We survey the businesses who participate every year,” Wardoku said, “and we got 90 percent of them saying it was a positive experience.

For E. Lake and Minnehaha, 95 percent of businesses said they would recommend it. I think people get a lot of value out of it.”

There are seven to ten staff members working on Open Streets, along with some interns in the summer. “Mostly, it is volunteers,” Wardoku said. “It can take 100 volunteers to put on a good event.”

She said Open Streets has had great sponsors, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Metro Transit, and the City of Minneapolis.

Businesses can participate in a tiered system. “You can come in as a basic business and have a spot on the street,” Wardoku explained, “for the lowest cost.” She said there are approximately 200 different vendors, and maps are printed out to help people follow the route.

“Businesses participating at a higher level are highlighted on the map,” she said.

Considering the most challenging aspect of putting on Open Streets, Wardoku said it all depends on the role one is playing. “The person recruiting volunteers might say that is the hardest; the person getting sponsors might say that is the most challenging part. We are always looking at funding and long-term larger sponsors. It really helps to have some city-wide sponsors that can provide the foundation we have to work from.”

Wardoku said she loves to ride her bike from one end of Open Streets to the other and engage along the way. “Some people like to walk the whole route, pulling their kids in a wagon. But if they are limited for time, they will look at that map and hit certain high spots.”

“One of the joys of Open Streets is that it’s closing down a main thoroughfare for a long stretch, and it’s fun to ride or walk from beginning to end and not worry about traffic for that whole time. You really see things you don’t normally because of the speed you are going. Even streets I have been down a hundred times before, I have missed little details. At Open Streets, you appreciate the neighborhood at a different level, and everyone is in a good mood.”

See more about the 2018 Lake + Minnehaha Open Streets here and here.

(Front page slider image by Margie O’Loughlin)

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