A few years ago, I wrote about Minneapolis’ first ever Open Streets event. I guess Saint Paul is about three years behind its twin. (This is actually a bit optimistic…)
That’s right, a few weeks ago, we celebrated our first ever Open Streets event! Open Streets (a.k.a. “sunday streets” or cyclovia) is an interesting active living and urban design event that comes out of South America, and first arrived in the Twin Cities a few years ago along Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. I’d like to report that Saint Paul’s debut effort was a resounding success, but (despite the organizer’s proclamations) I can’ quite bring myself to do so.
Rather, I think Saint Paul’s Open Streets was a qualified good start. Sunday the 15th was a moderately lovely day. It was a bit cloudy, and what we in Minnesota might generously call” brisk.” But eventually the sun came out, and it was lovely weather. Maybe it was the grey skies, but turnout was lower than I was hoping.
Maybe one of the reasons is that University Avenue, the site of the Open Streets event, presented a few challenges for the format. First, when cars are removed, you really begin to realize how barren, and dehumanizing the street architecture actually is. Vacant buildings and parking lots are everywhere. Very few doors, houses, or shops meet the sidewalk. Those that do seem devoid of people. Outside of a car, Saint PAul often feels like a ghost town, and University Avenue is no exception. (Inside of a car, it’s too dark to see.)