Open Streets Minneapolis
Open Streets Minneapolis temporarily transforms major City corridors into car-free places to give people an opportunity to enjoy the street on bicycle, foot, wheelchair, skateboard or roller skates. Since the first Open Streets event on Lyndale Avenue South in 2011, the initiative has grown considerably, drawing over 425,000 to 44 events through the end of 2018. Open Streets Minneapolis is hosted by the City of Minneapolis and is organized by Our Streets Minneapolis.
The goals of Open Streets include growing community connections, civic pride and community engagement, celebrating the city's diversity, inspiring healthy living, stimulating local business and promoting active transportation.
Submit a route idea for 2020 Open Streets season
The City of Minneapolis and the City's Open Streets event organizer, Our Streets Minneapolis, are seeking route ideas for the 2020 Open Streets season.
Organizations can also share their interest in being a local route host. Applications are due October 3, 2019. For more information and to submit an idea for a 2020 route, visit the Open Streets website.
Open Streets FAQs
What is Open Streets Minneapolis?
Open Streets Minneapolis temporarily transforms major City corridors into car-free places to give people an opportunity to enjoy the street on bicycle, foot, wheelchair, skateboard or roller skates.
Each event is programmed with many complementary activities such as bicycle repair, cultural activities, and temporary street infrastructure demonstration projects (e.g., pop-up protected bike lanes and pedestrian bump-outs).
Open Streets Minneapolis events are free and provide an opportunity for people to engage in physical activity, meet their neighbors, and discover businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City.
Why is it important to reimagine our streets as places?
In any city, streets are our most fundamental shared public spaces.
Street space in cities typically accounts for 25 percent to over 40 percent of the total area in the city.
Since the beginning of civilization, streets were used as centers for social and cultural exchange and acted as multiple-use city centers. Today, we have taken for granted the notion that our streets are primarily areas for motor vehicle movement and motor vehicle storage.
Many of our generation’s most pressing challenges are bound in some way to our relationship with streets.
These challenges include reduced physical activity, social isolation, degraded air quality and a lack of transportation options, which has led to inequitable access to jobs, social services, healthy food, and community interaction (see more information at Project for Public Spaces).
The Open Streets Minneapolis initiative reminds us that streets do not always have to be this way.
Streets can be reimagined to be thriving places where people can take advantage of the entire street right-of-way.
The initiative allows people to experience their streets in a different way and to create a platform for discussions about how our streets can be designed in the future.
How does Open Streets Minneapolis relate to Ciclovía/other Open Streets initiatives?
Conversations about Open Streets in Minneapolis initially began based on inspiration from Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia, an Open Streets initiative popularized in 1974 where people of all ages and abilities—regardless of socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds—are invited to improve their mental, physical, and emotional health by enjoying tens of miles of “paved parks” every Sunday and holiday.
The first Open Streets initiative in the United States was Seattle’s car-free initiative, known as Seattle Bicycle Sundays, which was launched in 1964 and connected several parks along three miles of City streets.
There are a growing number of Open Streets initiatives throughout the United States as cities and towns of all sizes seek innovative ways to achieve public health, environmental, social, and economic goals, and fulfill residents’ desires to experience their streets in a different way.
Open Streets events are free for participants, are not competitive (are not races), and do not have a designated beginning or end point— meaning people that attend can join and exit at any location along route.
Similar initiatives throughout the country go by names such as Sunday Parkways, Summer Streets, and Streets Alive.
The Open Streets Minneapolis initiative is unique to Minneapolis and not affiliated with other state, national, or international Open Streets initiatives (see information about other Open Streets initiatives at the Open Streets Project).
Open Streets Minneapolis events have the following characteristics:
- Occur on major urban corridors that primarily serve motorized traffic, which typically include streets that act as business and commercial corridors
- Connect multiple neighborhoods, especially neighborhoods that may feel isolated from each other based on land use patterns and high-volume roadways
- Encourage the discovery of local businesses along the route to support local economic vitality
- Have strong destinations (such as parks, major businesses, areas of programming, etc.)
- Occur over many blocks of City streets—ideally over two miles in length
- Are designed in different arrangements—historically linear, routes can also be in a loop or with an “arm and loop”
How did Open Streets Minneapolis begin?
Open Streets Minneapolis started as an idea in 2009 in coordination with the formation of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
To prepare for the 2011 and 2012 seasons of Open Streets Minneapolis, volunteers with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition went door to door in the winter to collect signatures for approval of the Block Permit Application.
Using inspiration from other Open Streets initiatives from around the world, the vision was for Open Streets Minneapolis to be different from other street events that also require traffic control and an event permit, such as street fairs, block parties, races.
The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition identified a need to develop an initiative to support broader City efforts to encourage physical activity, build support for active transportation choices, and enhance community engagement.
The original vision for Open Streets Minneapolis events was to provide significant lengths of car-free streets for people to receive substantive opportunities for non-motorized activities without facing frequent interruptions or obstacles.
The goal was to provide a street environment in which everyone can feel invited and comfortable.
How did Open Streets evolve from 2011-2016?
In 2011 the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition hosted the first Open Streets Minneapolis event on a two-mile stretch of Lyndale Avenue South.
In 2012 events were held on Lyndale Avenue South and Lowry Avenue North.
In 2013, in coordination with a Play Streets grant to the City from the Partnership for a Healthier America—there were four Open Streets Minneapolis events, one in each quadrant of the City: Southwest (Lyndale Avenue South), Northeast (Central Avenue), South (Minnehaha Avenue) and North (Lowry Avenue North).
Over the next two years, the initiative continued to grow to six events in 2014 and eight events in 2015, with an estimated 2015 attendance of 65,000 people. The 2016 season of Open Streets Minneapolis had eight events throughout the City.
Open Streets Minneapolis requires an organizer that can manage and deliver the program each year; the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has been serving in this role. The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has been a major sponsor and supporter of Open Streets Minneapolis from the inception of the initiative. The initiative has been co-sponsored by the City of Minneapolis since 2013.
Why is Open Streets important for the City of Minneapolis?
By reimagining our streets as places, Open Streets Minneapolis helps the City reach multiple goals around public health, community engagement, and active transportation. Over the years, multiple City departments have been using Open Streets Minneapolis as a way to further their individual missions.
The Minneapolis Health Department, for example, has a mission to improve the quality of life for all people in the City by protecting the environment, preventing disease and injury, promoting healthy behaviors, and creating a city that is a healthy place to live, work, and play. The Health Department has been leading the community engagement and planning around the North Minneapolis Greenway Project, and helped to develop an Open Streets route along one of the proposed corridors to allow people to experience what the future Greenway may feel like.
Open Streets Minneapolis provides opportunities to engage with the public around City initiatives and upcoming infrastructure projects. The Minneapolis Police Department, which exists to provide quality and professional service in partnership with all communities to continue to advance the City's safety, growth and viability, uses Open Streets Minneapolis to further goals around community interaction to promote public safety and public trust.
Many other City departments are discovering how the goals of Open Streets Minneapolis align with their departmental goals and the potential for growing partnerships. Allowing people to socialize with fellow citizens in a non-threatening, apolitical environment allows individuals, community organizations, and City officials to build social capital and develop a wider understanding of their City, each other, and the potential for making streets friendlier to all people (see more at the Open Streets Guide).
How does Open Streets Minneapolis fit in with the City's permitting process?
When Open Streets Minneapolis started, it was approved through the existing Block Event Permit structure as defined by the City of Minneapolis. This type of permit is used for a variety of street events that require traffic control.
For the first two years of the initiative, the City required the written signature and approval of 75 percent of adjacent property owners along the routes. The Organizer worked closely with the existing City Block Event / Special Event (BESE) Committee to receive approval for the Open Streets Routes. Since the Open Streets routes proposed were much longer than any other event that previously fit under the Block Event permit, the process was long and arduous.
Beginning in 2013 with the acceptance of the Play Streets Grant, the Organizer worked with the BESE Committee and other partners to develop a process that did not require the written approval of the adjacent property owners. With enough buy-in from local representatives and partner organizations, the Organizer provided at least one round of door-hanger notifications to adjacent properties.
How has Open Streets been funded in the past?
Numerous community organizations partner with the Open Streets Minneapolis initiative.
Initially, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition paid all of the costs of implementing the Open Streets Minneapolis events by fundraising. The Coalition raised funds from grants, local businesses and sponsorships. The organization also provided volunteers to organize the events and be present on the day of the events.
In 2013, the City began to provide City services and support as an in-kind contribution toward the initiative. This included traffic control, police security, trash/recycling bins, and traffic control/detour signs/barricades. These costs have been covered by existing City budgets.
How have roles been shared in the past?
Since multiple entities are involved in the planning and implementation of Open Streets Minneapolis, it is important to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities for each party.
To date the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has served as the Open Streets Minneapolis Organizer. In some cases, the Coalition has partnered with local organizations to provide event hosting. This type of Route Event Host arrangement has been demonstrated in previous years.
- The Lowry Corridor Business Association acted as a route event host for the Lowry Avenue North events from 2012-2015
- The Lyndale and Kingfield Neighborhood Associations have acted as a joint route event host for the Nicollet Avenue events starting in 2014
- In an effort to clearly define and distribute responsibilities, there is a professional services agreement between the City and the Organizer. Additionally, the Organizer develops a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with each of the route event hosts.
Open Streets Minneapolis: 2017 and beyond
The 2017 season of Open Streets Minneapolis was planned in greater coordination with the City of Minneapolis as compared to previous years. Through a Call for Open Streets Organizer, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was selected by the City to organize the 2017 season. The Coalition worked with the City to provide an application for routes and hosts, which increased public participation and further engaged the City in the planning for the new season.
December 2015 Council resolution
Starting at the end of 2015, conversations began at the City around how to make Open Streets Minneapolis more sustainable and transparent in the future. Discussions with City Council led to establishing Open Streets Minneapolis as a City-hosted event, developing a Call for Open Streets Organizer for the 2017 season, and creating an Application for Route Ideas and/or Hosts.
On December 1, 2015, it was resolved by the City Council of the City of Minneapolis that “the City will support Open Streets as City-hosted events in Minneapolis to help further the policies of the Ten-Year Transportation Action Plan, Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Climate Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan, and the goals of the Health Department. It was further resolved that the Minneapolis City Council will approve the number of Open Streets events, their locations, and any partners in supporting the events each year.” See the Appendix for the City-Hosted Open Streets Minneapolis Resolution.
Call for Open Streets Organizer
The City of Minneapolis released a formal call for a partner to build on the success of the Open Streets Minneapolis initiative and act as the Open Streets Minneapolis Organizer for the 2017 season. The Organizer was tasked with managing all facets of the 2017 Open Streets Minneapolis season, including permitting, assisting in route selection, volunteer coordination, and promotion.
The Organizer was selected based on multiple factors, including an understanding of the role of active transportation in economic vitality, community cohesion, and public health; experience organizing community events with multiple stakeholders; an ability to partner with the City; an ability to attract and manage large numbers of volunteers; an understanding of (and experience with) Open Streets initiatives; and experience encouraging and incorporating diversity in event attendees and programmers.
Based on discussions regarding costs and logistics, it was decided that there would be up to eight events as part of the 2017 Open Streets Minneapolis season. The City and the selected Organizer entered into a professional services agreement that outlines the duties and other requirements for successfully coordinating the 2017 season.
Application for Open Streets route ideas
Working with the City, the Organizer publicized an Application for interested parties to apply to suggest a desired route or host a route during the 2017 season of Open Streets Minneapolis. A primary intention of this application was to increase local participation in the overall Open Streets Minneapolis initiative and to add to the sustainability and reach of the initiative through the individual routes.
Everyone was encouraged to respond to this application with ideas for routes. Organizations could also share their potential interest in being a Local Route Host. As described earlier, a Local Route Host takes on a certain amount of the organizing responsibilities, based on a mutual agreement with the Open Streets Organizer.
The applications were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of both internal and external partners. The routes were scored individually by the members of the section committee based on a variety of factors, including how well the route supports the primary goals of Open Streets Minneapolis, connects multiple neighborhoods, includes a major urban corridor with strong destinations, has evidence of local support, addresses equity considerations, and can complement other community engagement opportunities. The section committee met, reviewed the individual scores, and decided on the top routes. Those applicants whose proposed route met the goals of Open Streets Minneapolis and showed local support were considered, and were contacted to further discuss interest and qualifications.
Last updated Aug 22, 2019