A car-free Motor City? Detroit to try Open Streets program

click to enlarge A car-free Motor City? Detroit to try Open Streets program
Flickr: Dave Hogg
Car-free streets in Detroit? Say whhhhat? 

Yup, the dawning of a new day is upon us, and with the ever-increasing focus on non-automotive forms of transportation, it should come as no surprise that the Motor City may be putting the kibosh on motors in some places. Well, at least for a couple of days. 

Starting this fall, for two Sundays, Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway from Campus Martius through Corktown and Mexicantown could be closed to traffic. That depends on whether the organizers of Open Streets, an advocacy project led by The Street Plans Collaborative, get their permits OK'ed by the city.

Essentially what this means is that this stretch of road would be open to pedestrian and bike traffic only on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, according to the News. They would only be zoned for several hours, rather than all day. 

Open Streets' goal as a program is to "share information about open streets and increase the number, size, and frequency of initiatives occurring across North America" and is already active in over 100 cities around the world, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Portland just recently won the bid to host the 2016 National Open Streets Summit, the goal of the event is to bring national and international leaders working to start more Open Street-style programs.  

So what exactly happens with Open Streets? Streets are temporarily closed to automobiles so that people can use them for healthy and fun physical activities. This should not be confused with specific events like; block parties, festivals, street fairs, and the like. Although Open Streets is connected to these types of events, they do not directly create them.

The Open Streets program is already active in 100-plus cities around the world, which says a lot. Detroiters are no strangers to downtown events and festivities, so making these places even friendlier to walkers and bikers would only help the street fair atmosphere. 

From The Detroit News, here is what a spokesperson for Mayor Mike Duggan had to say: 

“Generally speaking, the city is supportive of events that encourage safe and walkable spaces for families to enjoy,” said John Roach. “Because of the scope of the proposed street closures, several departments will have to closely review the permit application before the special events office makes its recommendation to City Council and MDOT.”

The group is filing for city permits this week, and if the trial run goes well, the organizers say they want to temporarily shut down other major streets in other parts of Detroit. 

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