What is Open Streets ICT?
Open Streets ICT is a FREE community-building event that closes a usually iconic busy street in Wichita to traffic and opens it for biking, walking, running, dancing, yoga, and more! All Wichitans are invited to join in on the fun by engaging with the surrounding local businesses, restaurants, street vendors, as well as the the major activity hubs situated every mile along the route.
To promote healthy active living through a free event opening the city’s largest streets for individuals of all physical levels to walk, bike, roll and discover active transportation.
We envision a safe, fun space to be used as a pathway to learn how to incorporate biking, walking, physical activity and active transportation choices into the everyday lives of individuals.
How + Why the Concept Started
Streets belong to everyone- they connect us to each other and the places where we live, learn, work and play across neighborhoods, cultures and economic status. The goal of Open Streets ICT is to foster an appreciation among community members, businesses and key decision makers for Wichita streets to become multi-functional for all to enjoy.
Open Streets ICT will be a public space that is a safe environment to promote the interaction of local businesses and organizations with the community to help strengthen the connections in Wichita. While this is a one-day event, the aim is that Open Streets ICT will become a more common event. This will result in potential improvement in air quality from reduced emissions, decrease of chronic diseases and enhanced community connectivity.
What Open Streets ICT Provides
Few studies have actually quantified the benefits derived from North America’s open streets initiatives. This may be because open streets are a new phenomenon in so many North American communities—47 of the 67 initiatives profiled herein began in the past 3 years, many on a trial basis. Yet, it’s obvious to anyone who has experienced open streets that good things happen when thousands of people engage in social and physical activities together. This is especially true when such activity occurs along a thoroughfare typically congested with automobiles. Below is a brief overview of the public health, environmental, economic, and social benefits associated with open streets. The information presented is sourced from the few available academic studies, as well a compelling anecdotal evidence found in newspaper articles, blogs, and the like.
There is no question that open streets initiatives engage participants in physical activity. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity* confirms that open streets generate positive public health outcomes. The study, which surveyed 37 such initiatives in 11 South and North American countries, found that 71% included physical activity classes, while 89% of the designated routes included parks offering additional opportunities for exercise. Additional research conducted in Bogotá strengthens the claim that open streets encourage people to be physically active. Indeed, when people in that city choose to exercise, they typically do so for an average of 48 minutes. By contrast, the average participant spends an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes exercising in the city’s streets and parks—five times the average amount. According to a new study looking at the economic benefits, the associated physical activity has an economic benefit realized in health care cost savings. It should be no surprise that across the United States and Canada many existing and emerging open streets initiatives are organized and sponsored by those working to improve public health through active living.
Open streets initiatives offer environmental benefits. Removing cars from the road, even just temporarily, provides a positive environmental impact, especially if the initiative is conducted on weekly basis. A study conducted in Bogotá reveals that particulate matter along the city’s Ciclovía route was 13 times higher on a regular weekday than on a Sunday. Although it’s unclear if the study controlled for traffic volume changes (traffic is normally lighter during the weekend), removing automobiles and trucks from city streets each Sunday surely contributes to improved air quality along the route. Most open streets initiatives also directly promote and encourage citizens to replace daily automobile trips with bicycling, walking, and public transportation. Although it’s more difficult to measure, these efforts are believed to encourage less routine car use. Finally, participation and support from numerous environmental organizations are common. The presence of such groups builds participants’ awareness and highlights the connection between improving the natural and built environment, the economy, and public health.
When located in downtown or neighborhood business districts, open streets offer new economic opportunities for many types of businesses. The inclusion of local vendors, artists, non-profit organizations, musicians, and other performers invites wider participation, which in turn provides increased opportunity for restaurants and retailers. This is especially true for those who do not regularly have the opportunity to share their food, wares, and products to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. While not every business will have a banner day—appliances may not be flying off the shelves and into bike baskets—the exposure to a broader and typically regional audience is valuable for businesses of all types. After the first Bike Miami Days, Tony Alonso, President and CEO of La Epoca Department Store said, “It was so much fun to see so many people in downtown on Sunday…the atmosphere of fun and people and activity made such a difference. Downtown shoppers were plentiful and they were buying! It was one of the best Sundays we have had. “Open streets also contribute to direct health care cost savings. A recent study published in the Journal of Urban Health analyzed the average economic cost and benefits associated with open streets programs in Bogotá, Medellin, Guadalajara, and San Francisco. The study, which is the first to assess the cost-benefit ratio derived from open streets programs, found that from a public health perspective each of the four initiatives is cost beneficial, especially when compared to other physical activity programs. The study partially attributes the low costs to the highly efficient use of existing infrastructure: our streets!
Special Thanks to Our Sponsors
We thank you for your commitment to public health, your dedication to the people of Wichita, and your investment in Wichita’s economic vitality. Open Streets ICT would not be possible without you!
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