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Open Road - UPDATED 12/24

Close a city's main street to traffic on Sundays. A congested sea of vehicles transforms into a welcoming community park for bikers, walkers and runners alike.

Photo of DeletedUser
16 17

Written by DeletedUser

You cross this street every morning. You wait at the cross walk while a sea of cars zoom past. You see no one. Just feel the frustrated energy of the morning commute. When you do finally cross the street, you feel drivers' eyes staring you down and willing you to walk faster.

But, on Sunday, this very same street, this very same intersection, is filled with families, pets, bikers, runners, friends, dates and squirrels. The roadway is closed to vehicular traffic, all day, and an entire community emerges. Children charge by foot down the double yellow lines of the road. Bikers ring their bells and smile as they swerve through the packs of runners. Everyone waves. Makes eye contact. Smiles. You are reminded of the diverse and welcoming community within which you live. You feel a part of the neighborhood. A neighborhood that emerges on Sunday, in the middle of an open road.

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

Open Road offers an opportunity to support, educate and celebrate your neighborhood. It invites you out of home and provides an entertaining, productive and healthy environment to re-engage with your local community. Friendships form, rekindle and strengthen. Local restaurants and businesses benefit from the surge of pedestrian traffic along the Open Road. Businesses may choose to present their offerings in a roadside tent, to directly engage with their current and future customers and learn firsthand how best to meet their needs. The local environment will thrive from Open Road's commitment to sustainability. Declare community recycling goals and celebrate community progress. As the neighbors reinvest in their local community, their commitment to the earth, to the culture and to each other will grow profoundly through time. Open Road will become a central part of the community social experience and will forever change the way local residents view the area in which they live.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

RECYCLE: HOW AND NOW. Use Open Road as a forum to educate, promote and facilitate sustainability within the community. Offer an inviting, prominent booth with facts about how, when, what and where to recycle. Items that can't be thrown away? Have a special bin for such items in the booth. Set community goals and announce/celebrate weekly progress. Use all recyclable materials throughout Open Road. Include clear, simple signage declaring this commitment and encouraging the community to suggest additional sustainability initiatives. Cleaning out your home? Bring items you want to get rid of to Open Road. Place them in a "Give and Take" bin for your neighbors to peruse and sift through the offerings from the community that you might need in your own home. One man's trash is another man's treasure. EAT UP. Invite local restaurants to host booths along Open Road and cook up their specialties for the neighborhood to try! A perfect way to delight existing customers and attract new local residents. Be sure to have the capacity to take dinner reservations from within the booth so that customers can act on the delicious flavors lingering in their mouths. A budding chef among your neighbors? Does he/she one day hope to open a restaurant? Give this person a chance! Have a few booths dedicated to New Talent and let these entrepreneurs try out their talents on the local community. GET FRESH. Invite a Farmers Market to make regular appearances at each Open Road. This will help to draw consistent crowds and most importantly, will provide the community with healthy, fresh and locally grown produce. Use this event as a way to promote healthy eating with educational signage about the importance of fruits, vegetables and diverse nutrients in your diet. Have an awesome 'produce-centric" family recipe you are willing to share? Perhaps a Recipe Exchange Box alongside the Farmers Market will encourage your neighbors to purchase produce and use it in a new way. Delicious home-cooked food can bring together friends and family like nothing else. ASK A DOC. Host a doctor each week at Open Road. Station him/her in a medical booth with capabilities to quickly take blood pressure (encourage individuals to monitor their weekly/monthly results) and to answer basic medical questions. Is there a doctor in your neighborhood? This local resident may be the perfect person for this task. SING OUT. Musical, theatrical or dance talent within your community? Celebrate it! Invite local dance studios to perform routines at Open Road - a perfect way to practice in front of a crowd. Host a concert with local talent - musicians and singers alike. Have a community or regional theater with a show coming up? Ask performers to offer a preview at Open Road with a featured scene or musical number as a way to delight local residents and to push up ticket sales. Make the performance in the middle of Open Road hours to further attract crowds, ramp up the noise, and fuel the energy throughout the event. CREATE TEAM COMPETITION. Host weekly games during Open Road to develop a collaborative community team. Perhaps children from streets adjacent to the Open Road compete against one another (1 team per street). The winning team is afforded the opportunity to choose a community enhancing activity to be done in their honor -- a new tree planted, new garden created, street cleaning effort etc. Name this creation after the winning street. Create a date plaque. Celebrate the activity in all Open Road promotional activity. GET THE WORD OUT. Consider the "sleeves" that cover hot to-go coffee cups. Print an image based notification about the community Open Road on the recyclable sleeves. Make them available at all local coffee and tea shops. Strategically place posters in the windows of the businesses that surround the Open Road area. Use this poster to explain Open Road dates/times, alternative traffic patterns and food and activity options for the Open Road period. Hang Street Sized Banners. String a loud and proud banner high above the Open Road inviting the community to return to that spot, without a car, on a specified date and time. Radio advertisements. TV commercials. Social media promotion. Can each Open Road feature a local celebrity? Has someone in your neighborhood written a book? Achieved a public milestone in his/her career? Founded a local program? Set an athletic record? Featured on a popular television show? Ask this person to return to your neighborhood during Open Road to speak, meet and greet, and sign as many autographs as his/her pen will allow! Be sure to use this as an opportunity to draw even more of the community to the Open Road event and to demonstrate to attendees that each Open Road will be different from the one before. Use the radio, newspaper, social media and banners around town to celebrate the celebrity's appearance.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

OPEN LOT. Before you go ahead and redirect heavy traffic flows, try a pilot version of this community gathering in a parking lot, when the surrounding stores are closed. Invite local businesses to set up tents, advertise their products and interact with the community they are designed to serve. Create weekly challenges for neighborhood children - Who can collect the most recyclable bottles throughout the week? Who can bring the most amount of guests with them to enjoy Open Road (Open Lot)? Who can win a hula hoop competition? Who can jump rope the longest? Dance the freest? PARALLEL CONCEPT TEST. Consider a grocery or large retail store. Close one aisle to "cart" traffic. Observe human interaction as shoppers peruse products without a cumbersome carriage. Are shoppers more aware of the people around them? Do they spend more time in aisle? Is there more eye contact? Does the shopper energy change? Does a fleeting community form around the cereal options?

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 16.7%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 33.3%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 50%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 33.3%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 50%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 16.7%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 33.3%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 66.7%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 0%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 50%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 33.3%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 16.7%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 50%

I liked it but preferred others. - 50%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tony Threatt

I had posted this on Dec. 17 but with servers going down it looks like it was lost...

What about partnering with a farmers market? Similar to - as discussed it feels like this idea needs a main market driver + it would be great if it was repeated (same bat time / same bat channel) or in rotating car parks throughout the city or in multiple car parks with multiple themes? I'd focus on the one main driver. The issue with car parks is that they can be cold and drafty - look for locations with adequate sunshine. I look forward to seeing how this is refined.

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