Street closings ahead

This ought to be interesting.

Three busy Houston streets will shut down to vehicular traffic on selected Sunday afternoons in an effort to see if car-bound residents will walk, bike and explore each block rather than simply drive through.

The program, called Open Streets, originated in Bogota, Colombia, more than 30 years ago and has been spreading fast across the United States in the past decade. The idea is to close streets to cars and open them to cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians – anybody using their own brawn to move. So, no horses.

“You can bring your jump rope and you can bring your Hula Hoop,” said Regina Garcia, president of Bike Houston.

The pilot program announced Wednesday will begin April 6, when 2.5 miles of two connected streets, White Oak and Quitman, will be closed to automotive traffic between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. In May, a mile-long stretch of Westheimer in the Montrose area will be closed to vehicles. Two miles of Washington Avenue ending at Market Square Park downtown will be closed in June.

Officials said the project would encourage residents to exercise and explore Houston’s neighborhoods.

“It is a way to acquaint ourselves with what is around those streets in a way we don’t normally experience it going by car,” Mayor Annise Parker said.

In St. Louis, where the street closings have been popular, the city found nearly three-quarters of attendees spent money along the route.


Many businesses pushed for the closings, hoping to generate interest in the neighborhood around them, said Travis Adair, owner of Lucky’s, a bar along the White Oak closure route who worked with the city on the plan.

Though cars will be off-limits in the parking lot of his bar, Adair said he’s planning to have plenty of bike racks and other attractions to draw customers, including possibly a band.

See here for the Mayor’s press release and here for the Sunday Streets HTX webpage. Any time you try to do something that involves the people of Houston traveling by means other than a car, there’s going to be skepticism. I have no idea what to expect from this – I wonder what metrics the city has in mind to determine if this is a success or not – but White Oak is close to where we live, so I’m sure we’ll wander over and check it out. What do you think about this?

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