There will be more, but here is a taste of the discussion...
The international Open Streets community is growing and although each city has a unique context to work with when introducing and developing Open Streets, it was very interesting to hear that some of the challenges cut across the (global) board. From measuring impact to ensuring local buy-in and making the programme a part of the fabric of the city, it is clear that building better cities might just start with creating more human streets.
Beyond being a fun experience, the chat was engaging and highlighted some key ideas worth sharing:
Q1: What defines "growth? Is it sustainable financing, policy, length, frequency, something else?
Frequency seemed to be a key issue as organisers work towards expanding their physical presence in the city and reach out to a greater number of communities. And of course this can only happen with outreach, as @CicLAvia from Los Angeles noted, because communities need to understand what it is all about and how they can contribute.
Q2. What tools do you use to define and measure success?
Does success lie in the number of people participating, the rate of growth of street closures, or even a change in street culture beyond Open Streets days themselves? Is it the number of communities who raise their voices, asking to have one in their area? The level of debate over street design? The discussion said: Data, data, data including social media feedback. And one #tweetchat participant suggested that business buy-in can lead to political endorsement and changes in policy.
Q3. How do you scale the benefits of Open Streets to the broader community?
This one got us thinking and dreaming big. There is so much untapped potential, specially in cities like Cape Town to maximise the benefits of this programme with one participant concluding there was enough evidence to get #OpenStreets going as a programme!
Q4. What policies & agendas can be highlighted and promoted through Open Streets Days (e.g. cycling)?
This question can probably take a full chat if not a series of them. In the ten minutes we had, the emphasis was on cycling and walking, but also some interesting ideas around urban planning and social cohesion. What is clear from looking at each city"s programme and style of Open Streets is that each has its own interpretation of what can work, and how this can contribute to policy development.
Q5. How do you create benefits that go beyond the day itself?
The chat was wrapped up with ideas for permanent change, which is what Open Streets ultimately aims to achieve:
..and that was it. A few final thoughts from those who joined and a chat later from Open Streets Toronto...
We had such a great experience, this will become a monthly #OpenStreets tweet chat. The third Thursday of every month, take note!