It can often seem looking back that Detroit was an auto manufacturer long before it was ever a proper city, and looking across the landscape that we all share, this images truly strikes home. With asphalt as far as the eye can see, highways that seem to lead to everywhere and nowhere, streets across streets in a jumbled ball of yarn that is our motorways, like every car that came off the line came with a mile of roadway tacked alongside it, and yet our number of vehicles on these roads is lower than ever.
This makes for a weird conundrum as you read across news outlets each passing day that a cyclist or pedestrian somewhere was cause unaware by the broadside of a sedan. It seems counter-intuitive to have so many roadways for the number of vehicles on the road, and yet so little means for bikers and fellow non-motorized motorists. Yet the Open Streets program aims to bring a little shift to this dynamic, at least for a few days each year, the program aims to bring less vehicles onto our roads, and more people.
The premise is simple, for a block of hours, on one specific day, the roads are closed to motorists, allowing bikers, walkers and even wagons pulled by parents to be the main form of transportation on these roads. Much like the closures we see for yearly marathons, yet with a much more laid back approach to it. It’s a great concept, and a great way to get people to actually step out and enjoy the city a little more. It’s amazing to see that the premise alone of no vehicles on specific roads, has people coming out of their homes and enjoying the air.
Sure there are some detractors, but it’s typically those who wouldn’t be satisfied with any type of change, especially one that can make them a minute late to get their afternoon coffee by having to take a different side road. Yet for the most part it’s been embraced by everyone, city leaders included, which can turn this annual event into one that happens more than ever. There used to be a time that roads belonged to pedestrians, and vehicles had to abide by that, yet through sheer marketing those times changed, yet every time changes, and sometimes going back is a good thing.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be able to walk down the center line of Michigan avenue in the middle of the afternoon without worrying about becoming a hood ornament, you have your chance now, and it’s high time it came about. If the vehicles aren’t going to be the mainstays they once were, perhaps it’s time we reclaim our place as masters of the streets in pedestrian form, at least for a few hours out of a single day out of each year, hey, it’s a start at the very least.