Nashville Will Have its First Open Streets Festival on June 27

The inaugural Nashville Open Streets Festival takes place on June 27, 2015 from 11-2pm.

Nashvillians, mark your calendars. In three weeks, a mile-long stretch of Division Street and 11th Avenue (basically, “The Gultch”) will turn into a three-hour family-friendly greenway.

Open_Streets_2015 The inaugural Nashville Open Streets Festival takes place on June 27, 2015 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (And it’s free.)

It will be a somewhat shorter version of such open streets events that have grown extremely popular in cities around the world. (They are also referred to as ciclovias or cyclovias, a spanish word meaning “cycleway,” as they originated in Bogata, Columbia, in the mid 1970s.)

What is an Open Streets Festival?

The idea is a simple one, but the logistics are challenging: During a designated time (a weekend morning, for instance), close a stretch of city streets to vehicular traffic–as if you were going to have a big marathon, say–and simply let people take over the streets for walking, rollerblading, jogging, riding bikes, pushing strollers, etc.

Unlike a marathon or walk-a-thon or event you may have participated in along city streets, an open streets event has no start or finish line. Nothing to train for. Nothing to raise money for. You don’t have pay an entry fee. You won’t get a tee-shirt. You won’t be covered in color chalk. You won’t have to load up with carbs the night before. There will be no trade show or concert. It’s just about taking a stroll or ride down the street.

According to the Nashville Open Streets Festival website:

“Walkers, cyclists, families, musicians, dancers and community members from around Nashville are invited into the street. Businesses that are already on the Open Street will be able to open their doors and expand into the street and sidewalk. Mini-stages, booths, and tents will be set up along the route in areas without stores and restaurants. These areas will hold games, music, and fun activities.”

While this first open streets event in Nashville is shorter than most, if people come out and experience this one and respond positively like I know they will , I predict it will grow in participation, distance and sponsorship in coming years.

It’s not such a bold prediction, as that’s what has happened in other cities.

new york summer streets festival.
Map of NYC Summer Streets.
Click to embiggen.

How I learned how great an open streets event is

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were in New York visiting our daughter for the weekend. As I often do when going to New York, I pinged my friend Dave Winer to see if we could get together for a bike ride and a visit while I was in town. He suggested we ride in something called “Summer Streets,” what I would learn was an event in which seven miles of Park Avenue are open only to people who are walking, roller skating, jogging or riding their bikes.

I had never heard of such an event, but was blown away by the experience.

It’s hard to describe how much fun it is for pedestrians and cyclists to take over seven miles of Park Avenue, from East 72nd Street down to the Brooklyn Bridge. All along the way, there are rest areas with games for kids to play. The Citi Bike folks also do a great job of re-deploying their bikes from typical commuting patterns to locations that make it easy for people visiting the city, like me, to “rent” a bike from their fleet.

For Nashvillians who have ever participated in a Thanksgiving Day Boulevard Bolt, the event is like the fun part that’s back behind the racers–where there are thousands of people pushing baby strollers and catching up with people they haven’t seen since the year before.

Bottomline: Nashville Open Streets Festival is free. It’s family fun. It’s flat for bike riding. And you can walk or ride a bike on a downtown street in Nashville and not get run over by a car.

What more could you want?