My beloved hometown of Minneapolis is vastly cooler now than it was just a week ago, a year ago, definitely more than two years ago. Why? Two things – Food Carts and Open Streets. Urbanites are letting their actions demonstrate their desire to be in the public realm, enjoy the public realm, be urban – and have a good meal to boot!
First, food carts. They are popping up all over downtown, and elsewhere. They line Marquette Avenue, and out come the crowds to the sidewalks (the publci realm) where nobody but smokers used to hang out. I guarantee the designers behind the recent rebuild of Marquette and 2nd did not have food carts in mind. But in a happy coincidence, there are no midday buses, so the northbound curb lane of Marquette is the perfect space for a row of food carts. It just goes to show that people yearn to embrace and enjoy their public realm, if you give them a reason to do so. Take that, skyways! Just see for yourself….
Second, the second annual Open Streets (the Minneapolis version of Cyclovia) was held this past weekend on Lyndale Avenue. The hours were longer and there was more to do this year. I daresay more streets will have to be added to the venue some day! I took my kids, and we simply sat in the shade, watched the bikes, skateboards, dogs, scooters, roller blades and people of all ages go by. My kids played cars in the street – the only cars on Lyndale Avenue were Hot Wheels! It was great. Instead of “Build it and they will come,” perhaps “Close it and they will come” is more appropriate to describe Open Streets. Well, see for yourself….
We eat this stuff up. We crave urbanity. The press reports Open Streets as an event dedicated to bikers and walkers (true) designed to promote healthy living. What they don’t realize is we clearly crave this stuff. These streets and sidewalks are ours, and when we can have the streets to ourselves, free of the tyranny of the motorized vehicle, it is staggering how wonderful it feels. And simply wandering out on to the sidewalk and choosing from any number of delicious meals from food carts, how can you beat that?
Food carts and Open Streets demonstrates a clear demand for a more balanced public realm. A public realm not designed around cars and intended for cars first, but rather a public realm designed for and used by (gasp) the public!
Great! But how long will it take for city leaders and politicians to embrace this and take real measures to expand the public real for, say, 365 days of the year rather than one, or allow food trucks to stay during rush hour, etc.?
It is up to us to tell them just how much we like this stuff.
Two great street improvements!
We at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (the host of Open Streets) are working toward another event this year (Lowry Ave N), but are working with the City to improve the permitting process. Such improvements are important to make it easier (and less costly) to host such community events. I'm hopeful those improvements will be made and the City will serve to support Open Streets (and not just offer permitting steps to go through to get there). With good staff and enthusiastic elected officials, hopefully we'll have more Open Streets in the future!