Open Streets event closes roadway in order to open for people

By Claire Girman

Open Streets closes roads to open for people from TCU Student Media on Vimeo.
Representatives from a local non-profit organization said one of their least expensive events to finance on the calendar has become renowned for uniting people and area businesses.
Open Streets, an event facilitated by representatives of Fort Worth South, Inc., was showcased on Sunday for the sixth year in the Near Southside District along Magnolia Avenue.
Mike Brennan, the Director of Planning for Fort Worth South, Inc., said the intent of the event is to convert a popular roadway to a space where people can walk, ride bicycles and skateboard, but also engage with local businesses.
“Something people don’t think about very often is how the streets we drive on every day can become an incredible public space that can be used in all sorts of ways,” Brennan said, “if we take the opportunity to shut them down.”
He said the idea of Open Streets was inspired by a movement that started in South America.
“The government was dealing with smog problems,” he said. “They said: ‘You know, we would benefit from a reduction in car traffic at least once a week.’ So on a Sunday afternoon, they would close a major roadway to cars and open them up to people.”
Brennan said he’s seeing more people discovering the Near Southside based on the sheer growth in the event’s attendance over the years.
“Based on last year’s crowd, it got to a point where the street was so congested, we had to take some steps this year to ensure people who were on bicycles, skates or skateboards had a section of the street where they could safely ride,” he said.
Amy Warner, a representative of DFW Beagle Buddies, said this is the organization’s fourth year participating in Open Streets.
“This year I’ve noticed they’ve put more of an emphasis on the bikes and giving more room for people to ride,” Warner said. “I think that’s a really nice change they’ve done.”
Brennan said accommodating bicyclists, skaters and walkers this year remained a high priority, but also leaving enough space for local businesses to offer activities to families and passerbys.
Visitors and families could participate in a variety of events hosted by area businesses, which ranged from face painting, hoola-hooping, dancing to playing music.
“This is a fun way of increasing awareness of the area and businesses for the people who are here,” he said.
Brennan said the event originally catered to residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of the Near Southside district, but growing attendance has proven the event is reaching others across Fort Worth.
“It started at the neighborhood scale. People could roll out of bed on Sunday, get their bikes together and ride down the street and this event would be going on,” Brennan said. “It’s now turned into a regional draw. The goal now is to provide a fun time for the surrounding neighborhoods and the rest of the community.”
Angela Kaufman, a campus minister at TCU, said this was the first year she and her two children have visited Open Street.
“This [event] is huge for the community, because it reminds us how important it is to get to know our neighbors,” Kaufman said. “Fairmount and this whole area of town sets a great example for the rest of us. It’s important to realize that we live together and we ought to live together well.”
Brennan said many people were quick to get behind the idea of bringing visitors and natives together, as well as building camaraderie among the small businesses.
The general sponsors for this year’s event were Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center, Dunaway Associates, Pilates Works, Site Barricades and Tarrant County College.
“In addition to this, we had a long list of people who wanted to help,” he said. “A neighborhood resident, John Shay, was in charge of setting up the skate park for this year’s Open Street event. Cowtown Marathon donated the water coolers.”
In preparation for next year’s event, Brennan said the planning of the event will remain relatively the same, but his team will continue finding ways to draw more people to the area.
“We are at the stage in the event’s evolution, where we sort of know how everything comes together,” he said. “We come from our large annual banquet at the end of February, to adding this event as our next major project. Within that time period, it’s really a pretty quick turnaround, and it comes together nicely.”
He said the event wouldn’t be a success without the help of visitors, residents and community partners who make a presence every year.
“The team at Fort Worth South, Inc. just gets the word out – it’s our partners who say ‘we’re gonna be there’ and it all comes together pretty smoothly,” Brennan said.