It seems like a long time since this idea first surfaced in Knoxville as a possibility, but really it’s come together quite quickly under the guidance of event coordinator Kelley Segars and the leadership of Caroline Cooley, president of Bike Walk Knoxville. Twenty-four sponsors have stepped up to help defray the costs and a host of groups and individuals have offered their services to offer as wide a range of activities as you could imagine.
I met with Dr. Cooley recently to talk about the event and she enumerated activities until she ran out of breath. Interestingly, her e-bike sat a few feet away and several groups stopped to ask how it works, where she got and to discuss features. We invited them to Open Streets Knoxville because e-bikes (as well as recumbent bikes) will be available for people to take for a spin and see what they think.
The event tracks a mile of Central Street from the heart of the Old City to just past Happy Holler. Activities are going to be clustered into four main locations in order to give people access to many of the businesses which will be open, in many cases, specifically for the Open Streets celebration. Food trucks will also be sprinkled along the route offering another option for the hungry among us.
Activities include some fun ones I recognize and a few that required a little extra explanation for me to grasp. As you might expect, you’ll find yoga, crossfit, dance performances and classes, sidewalk chalk, ping pong, corn hole, tai chi demos, arts and crafts centers, hooping and bike rentals (you can also bring your own). But you’ll also find a walking library, a bike rodeo, a hammock stuffing contest, pickle ball, a white cane walk, plasma cars, whip and na-na lessons, kho kho and a mini-ninja obstacle course (this involves lasers, I am told). You’ll just have to show up to see what those things are all about.
One of the things I’m excited about is how many active and old-school activities have been planned for the children. In addition to those above, red light-green light and musical chairs show up on the list. It makes me ache for the innocence of my childhood. Honestly, there is so much for children that I’m not sure Urban Girl will make it 100 yards before settling into one or the other of them. I already feel torn regarding settling in or experiencing the joy of zipping through the mile on my bike with dozens or hundreds of others similarly liberated by the absence of automobiles.
Dr. Cooley said that the point is that, “this is a demonstration to show people they can walk or bike to neighborhood businesses.” She emphasized how important it is that people support the businesses along the way, as well as have fun, connect with other people and gets some physical exercise. The potential benefits from the event, particularly if it becomes a series of events, are too numerous to list, but the one I most like to ponder is that this kind of event mixes all kinds of people in a fun environment. People who for socio-economic or other reasons may not tend to mingle. The video I’m posting below gives a good run down of the history of open streets (or cyclovia) as well as many of the benefits.
The event starts at 1:00 PM and is relatively brief, ending just three hours later. There is no entrance or exit – you may enter or exit from any point along the way. Park at either end – in the Old City or Happy Holler – or on side streets off Central anywhere along the way. It’s important that we have a massive number of people. We want to demonstrate that Knoxville is ready for this and that next time – which is already under discussion for 2016 – the route will need to be much longer to accommodate the crowds. In Bogata, Columbia these events happen every Sunday, all day and include seventy-five miles of closed streets and highways! And about 30% of the population of the city takes part.
So, the city has stepped forward. The next move is ours. Show up rain or shine – seriously, rain or shine. Have fun, exercise, meet new people. You want to be able to say you were there at the beginning of something very special. Get the latest updates and “like” the Open Streets Facebook Page, and tell them you are coming on the Open Streets Event Page. Find much greater detail on the Open Streets Webpage.