St. Louis Open Streets is a new program sponsored by the City of St. Louis that will open up several miles of city roads to pedestrian and cyclist traffic only. That's right...automobiles are prohibited!
The project web site is located here.
Open Streets is an excellent way to encourage walking and cycling in the city, as well as to see the city the way it was meant to be seen--outside of a vehicle and on foot or bike. More importantly, the city's willingness to close major arteries for pedestrians--when not encouraged to do so for parades or other special events--is an important milestone. Perhaps the St. Louis Streets Department will consider other measures to improve our city's road network to make it more amenable to pedestrians. These would include making bloated streets like Olive Street west of downtown go on a "road diet"; opening up streets closed by barriers to make them more trafficked and safer to walk along; reconnecting the street grid where interstates have done damage; et cetera.
The first Open Streets event is scheduled for May 1, 2010, from 8am to 1pm. The route selected is Lindell Boulevard from city limits on the west, eastward to Compton, where the closure jumps to Locust Street, which extends all the way until 4th Street. See below for the route's flyer.
Other Open Streets events are planned for Sunday, June 13; Sunday, September 19; and Saturday, October 9, 2010.
If you notice, certain streets within Forest Park will also be closed off to vehicular traffic.
Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea and a victory for pedestrians in the City of St. Louis. I do want to be careful to point out that permanent street closures without sufficient population density are often a bad thing, making streets appear too quiet, private, or even desolate. That is why I support allowing through-traffic on most of the city's closed-off roads. However, as an event designed to bring people out to have fun and exercise temporarily in the former right-of-way of vehicles, Open Streets is a great statement in support of pedestrians. This event does not, however, serve as a substitute for improving the state of St. Louis's often overly-wide and pedestrian and cyclist-unfriendly roads. Still, for now, bravo!
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