Open Streets - Four Events for 2013!
This is an exciting day for Minneapolis Open Streets events. This morning, the Council unanimously approved accepting a $50,000 "Play Streets" grant from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to do four Open Streets events next year (one per quadrant of the city), and a resolution to formally cosponsor those events and commit to covering up to $50,000 in public costs. Minneapolis is one of only 10 cities around the country to receive this grant.
Open Streets events temporarily close major commercial corridors to cars for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, and open the street up to walking, bicycling, and other forms of physical activity and enjoyment. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has sponsored three Open Streets events in Minneapolis so far: on Lyndale Ave S in June of 2011 and 2012, and on Lowry Ave N in September of 2012. Many other cities both in the US and around the world hold Open Streets-style events, calling them Ciclovia, Sunday Streets, Sunday Parkways and more.
These events have been a tremendous success. The number of people who attended the Lyndale event doubled from 2011 to 2012, from 5,000 to 10,000. Businesses along the routes do very well on the day of the event, and the reaction from participants has been extremely positive.
So when an opportunity arose this past August to apply for a $50,000 grant from the PHA, my office worked to make sure the City applied. My aide, Robin, helped coordinate a group of City staff and volunteers from the Minneapolis Bicycle to write an application that I signed along with Mayor Rybak, Council President Johnson, and Council Vice President Lilligren. (Full disclosure: Robin is a board member of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which may end up being the City's contractor to organize the events next year.) We found out in late October that the City of Minneapolis had been selected, and worked to bring an action to the Council to accept the grant and pass the resolution committing the City to formally cosponsor. That action passed the Transportation and Public Works committee unanimously on Tuesday, and the Council this morning.
I'm especially excited to have the City playing a more helpful, supportive role in Open Streets events. Public costs - barricades, traffic direction, no-parking signage, waste and recycling service - have been by far the greatest costs to Open Streets events so far. Open Streets events help the City make progress on many adopted policy goals, around non-motorized transportation, health, air quality, economic development and Most of our peer cities that have successful Open Streets-style events (Portland, San Francisco, New York, LA and others) provide these as public support. Oakland, CA, on the other hand, did not support its Open Streets events and they have been discontinued. I want to make sure that Minneapolis can have sustainable, long-term success with Open Streets, and I believe that requires support from the City.
And I'm not alone in wanting to see the City become a better partner for Open Streets. The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) recommended, as part of the Bike Plan Implementation Plan, that the City do more to help make these events successful. That recommendation was unanimously adopted by the Council in 2011. The BAC also recommended that the City apply for the "Play Streets" grant in August, and in November supported the Council action and resolution that passed today.
Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Minnesota also strongly supported today's action. They helped get Minneapolis Open Streets off the ground with a $20,000 grant in 2011 and an additional $20,000 in support for the Lyndale and Lowry events this year.
And of course, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition did a great job both letting the Council know that they supported today's action, making clear that they have the capacity to successfully organize next year's events if they're chosen as the contractor, and informing their members that this exciting opportunity was on the Council's agenda.
Many people helped make this happen. The PHA, of course, deserves our thanks for creating this program. My fellow policymakers who signed the application - the Mayor and Council Members Johnson and Lilligren - all also helped to ensure its passage at the Council today. Many City staff helped edit the City's successful application: Jon Wertjes and David Peterson in Public Works, Sarah Stewart and Patty Bowler in the Health Department, Phil Schliesman in Licensing, Andy Holmaas and Peter Wagenius from the Mayor's Office, Kris Arneson from the Police Department and Gene Ranieri in Intergovernmental Relations. Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition volunteers Colin Harris, Ben Olson and Molly Sullivan also helped edit the application.
Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works committee, attached a good staff direction to this action. It directs Public Works to draft a policy that will help the City decide which types of events we will support with public funds, as we have decided to do for the 2013 Open Streets events, and to return with that draft policy in February of 2013. In speaking in favor of the staff direction, Council Member Lilligren made a point that I agree with: that Open Streets events should be considered a new class of event, dealt with separately from the way we license large block events. I look forward to making this case in February.