Project Manager, International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA)
2019, December 19th
The Open Streets Day is one day event dedicated to providing local opportunities to people to be physically active using the public streets in urban areas. Sometimes the smallest and easiest things are the most effective. Laura Maria Tiidla from ISCA explains here in this interview what the project is all about.
What is Open Streets Day and how does it participate to reversing the tide of physical inactivity?
The Open Streets Day initiative developed by the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) aims to transform public space and urban areas of cities into venues for recreational physical activity, sport, play and culture. Coinciding with the Car-Free Day, the pilot edition on 22 September 2019 invited local community members to take advantage of the already existing road closures and activate the public space.
The Open Streets Day serves as a bridge between EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and European Week of Sport by promoting environmentally-friendly modes of active transport, as well as encourages citizens to celebrate the joy of being physically active. The aim of the campaign is to engage with national coordinators to establish flagship events across Europe, and to encourage local communities and urban leaders to organise their own open street events. The inaugural Open Streets Day on the 22 September 2019 activated 104 cities in 31 countries across 5 continents.
The Open Streets Day project was inspired by the Ciclovía concept of regularly closing roads to traffic, established in Latin America, and likewise aims to encourage cities and local communities across Europe to open up their streets to cycling, walking, play, sports and cultural activities. As an international initiative, it raises awareness among decision-makers about the role that cities play fighting against physical inactivity and provides them with an easy concept to celebrate physical activity in the urban setting. It nudges the municipality to provide opportunities to be physically active and incentivises the local residents towards healthier habits and thus helps to fight sedentary lifestyle.
What do you aim to achieve with events like this centred on using available public spaces?
With growing urban populations, the demand for high quality public space is also growing and cities need to cater to the needs of their citizens to ensure their wellbeing. Unfortunately, our cities are often designed with cars as the priority, taking up as much as 60% of the urban area and increasing congestion, air pollution, inequality and sedentary lifestyle. Much of the space used for private use vehicles could be instead utilised as liveable public space for walking, cycling, play and socialising to bring people and communities closer together. This principle of more liveable, walkable and cohesive cities that Open Streets Day highlights will ensure health, social and environmental benefits.
Moreover, the majority of street space is often located in densely populated areas, where a lot of people live and where we have few ordinary sports facilities. We would like to emphasise that streets are existing facilities, and opening them up to physical activity and movement is smart, sustainable and cost-efficient. It often doesn’t require construction, just a political decision.
Why choose cities as an area of focus for the project?
With more than 70% of the global population living in urban areas, cities have a special responsibility. But also a unique opportunity to contribute to improve their residents health and physical activity levels through urban design and sustainable transport. Open Streets Day aims to connect the active transport sector with the sport and healthy society branch to make the most out of public space and bring life and movement back to the urban setting. And hopefully it will also encourage cooperation between the sport and municipalities to incorporate physical activity into urban design and city planning from the start.
Initiatives like Open Streets Day aim to reimagine the public space in our cities creatively – if for one day you see the main boulevard without a single car, it sparks your imagination and encourages you to have higher expectations towards our local city councils and municipalities of how we use the public space. Is car traffic the best use of the public space and does it benefit the selected wealthy or the general population? Does your city provide enough space for movement and fun for everyone to enjoy their cities?
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