Comment 41640

By highwater (registered) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 14:46:05

I was speaking with one of the organizers and their attendance estimate was 3,000! They had been hoping for 2,000, so to get 3,000 out in dicey weather is a huge testament to the pent-up demand for the kind of giddy, spontaneous coming together facilitated by opening our streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

I also suggested to her that this be a more frequent event, say every Sunday in August, something like they have in NY. She informed me that it cost them $10,000 for permits, barricades, police, etc. to close off the street for a day, so to do a month of Sundays, they would have to find $40,000. This would obviously require major sponsors, then you get into commercializing the event which would change its wonderful free-wheeling character. I guess I'm naive. I was astonished at the cost. These are small, non-profit community groups putting this on. I can't understand why the city itself isn't doing this and absorbing the cost. Cities like Bogota and NY are not relying solely on the resources of grassroots groups for their open streets events.

I worry that Open Streets Hamilton might become a victim of its own success. The city is very likely to conclude that the first event was such a success, that they don't need to step forward and make this a city initiative as it is in other cities, that community groups and corporate sponsors are willing to continue to assume all the risk and do all the work. I don't see how Open Streets Hamilton can expand and be what we would all like it to be, if it remains solely volunteer-based.

One of the things that made the NY Open Streets so amazing was having the Mayor and Transportation Commissioner get up at a press conference and declare that they were committed to treating their streets as public spaces and damn the inconveniences. Open Streets Hamilton has shown that it can be done, and that there is widespread public support. Now the city needs to find the courage to stand up and take on the bulk of the responsibility for making sure that OSH continues and expands, or we will have to be content with only two relatively small events per year, at least until the volunteers and sponsors burn out.

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