An event meant to examine the use of streets to encourage healthy living and community may be denied a permit based on inappropriate use of streets. The Open Streets Bloomington event, scheduled to be held on Sunday, October 5, will be heard at the Board of Public Works meeting September 23, and is expected to face opposition.
Board member Charlotte Zietlow says that the first annual open streets event, held last fall, had a slight bit of opposition, and tonight the three member board will also voice their concerns.
This is the first time the event is coming in front of the board this year, and the final opportunity for approval since the board does not meet again before October 5.
Miah Michaelson, assistant director for the arts for the city of Bloomington economic and sustainable development department, is the supporting staff member for the project.
Michaelson says typically organizations would present their proposals well in advance of their scheduled event.
The proposal for the event includes closing 7th street from the B Line into the near west side neighborhood at Elm Street to traffic for the majority of the day. Open street organizers expressed concern today through Facebook postings and a message that went out to the near west side neighborhood association that there event would not get approved, and that the board might not understand exactly what it is the event is trying to do.
“They’re proposing to close those streets off and as I understand it the idea is to get cars off the streets and use the streets as a type of playground,” Zietlow says, “I gather that the intent is to see what we could do if there were no cars on the streets. So the question arises is ‘Why do we have streets?’”
The open streets website differentiates the international open streets movement, from other events that typically block streets like art fairs, charity runs, and parades, stating the benefits of an open streets event to be about encouraging physical activity, broadening transportation choices, and encouraging economic development.
Michaelson said she could not think of a direct economic impact the event would have as it is not a ticketed event and there are not good being sold.
Zietlow also mentioned that the event does not support a charity the way other street closure events tend to do. The afternoon media campaign by the organizers of open streets seemed to already be having an effect, Zietlow said she was starting to hear from the public in support of the event.
“I’ve gotten three or four emails supporting it, and this is unusual for the things we act on,” Zietlow says. “There are other questions asking if this is a legitimate use of streets because there’s not charitable group this event is raising money for.”
The open streets event is set to coincide with a day long celebration of cycling at the Buskirk Chumley Theater, and was the recipient of the proceeds that came from the $12,000 raised at the clips of faith film festival in Bryan Park this summer.
The hearing regarding the open streets events will take place at the board of public works meeting September 23.