Open Streets - A New Event for London

Open Streets is a beautifully simple new idea for London. 

On the 30th of May, Great Suffolk Street and surrounding streets in Southwark will be closed to motorised traffic and will become open, accessible public space. Walkers, cyclists, and all other forms of human-powered traffic will be able to cross the streets freely, enjoying the space that was previously the preserve of cars and trucks.

It’s an idea that first started in Colombia in 1976.  It caught people’s imagination, and it’s now a regular occurrence –one Sunday a month, and on some holidays, huge amounts of the capital, Bogota, as well as other cities around the country are cleared of all traffic and millions of people take to the streets to walk, cycle, rollerblade, dance, play games, or simply sit and enjoy the peace and the space afforded by the absence of motor-vehicles.

 The concept has spread around the world and events now take place in Australia, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Peru, and many more countries. There are over 200 cities and towns worldwide that have held Open Streets events. There are many places where it is even a weekly event.

This event will be the first in London, but the organisers hope it will gain support and that it can become a regular thing.

It’s been shown that the events can have a positive impact on local businesses as well. Removing the traffic increases the amount of time people will spend in the street.

At one Open Streets event in San Francisco, over 75% of participants said they had spent money along the route, and in St Louis, over two thirds said they had become aware of new traders and businesses in the area. 

There’s no need to book, and it’s free for everyone. Open Streets are still looking for volunteers so if you’ve a mind, then visit their website to find out more. It’s a great chance to reimagine the purpose of urban spaces and look at the city in a new way.

 As Lisa Kane, from Cape Town, put it: ‘Open Streets not only opened our roads, it opened our minds’.