What if there was a parallel universe (like in Quantum Leap or Fringe) where Minneapolis wasn’t almost completely dominated by the automobile? What if there’s a place where the city is almost the same, but ever-so-slightly different (kind of like Canada), subtly redesigned so that streets became a pedestrian paradise? What if you could say “beetlejuice” three times, and lovely public spaces lined with trees and shops and filled with street life of every stripe would appear? What if this parallel urban Minneapolis universe actually existed, just out of reach, and it took only the tiniest of butterfly wingflaps to transport yourself there?
To me, that’s what Sunday’s Openstreets event is all about. It’s a temporary six-hour window into an alternate universe. It’s a chance to see what parallel pedestrianized Lyndale Avenue would look like in the bizarro walkable Minneapolis that lingers in my dreams.
The openstreets concept is a strange and flexible tool that’s slowly disseminated around the Western hemisphere, doing intriguing things to tweak urban design. I’ts kind of a temporary community experiment around four overlapping interlinked goals: promoting alternative tranportation (bikes, feet), supporting local business, populating public space, and promoting public health. As we demonstrate daily on this website, any one of these goals is interlinked with any of the others. Re-thinking public space or local business IS rethinking tranpsortation and urban design. Our cities are an interlinked puzzle, kind of like a Rubics cube. Changing one variable is changing all the others, and Openstreets seems to work with the whole system all at once.
So, try to head down to Lyndale Avenue on Sunday, close your eyes, and imagine that you’re Scott Bakula in world where the street was like this all the time. Not only is is a pleasant propositing, but its actually possible. As New York’s Broadway Avenue redesign demonstrates, it IS possible to radically change our urban spaces with only a few bits of concrete and some moveable chairs. There’s no reason, except for political inertia and social preconceptions, that we couldn’t start rethinking our streets all over the city on a more permanent basis. For now, enjoy it while it lasts.
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