There Might Be a Car-Free #OpenStreets Weekend This Fall

The Kenney administration says it's planning to do an event in September or October.

Cyclists take to the streets during the “Pope Ride” Saturday. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

During Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last year, cyclists took to the open streets. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

Philadelphia may have its first official “Open Streets” event early this fall. Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city is “planning to do an event in the Sept./Oct. timeframe.”

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for hearings on Open Streets weekends, which would keep cars off of certain streets at certain times to open them up for pedestrian and bike traffic. The resolution refers to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last September, when cars were prohibited on many streets downtown, as “a de facto Open Streets weekend for the residents of Center City.” After that visit, advocates started passing around a petition for more Open Streets events, and eventually a few people made Open Streets PHL an official campaign.

Former Mayor Michael Nutter said he wanted to have Open Streets weekends, and during last year’s mayoral campaign, Kenney said he liked the idea as well.

“The hearing will allow us to look at the Open Streets concept and hopefully come together with a strategy and a plan to be supportive of the initiative that’s being floated around right now,” Johnson said.  

His resolution also places the Open Streets concept in Philly’s rather robust block party tradition.

“I’m an outdoor guy,” Johnson added. “I enjoy hanging out on the Schuylkill River Trail, but most importantly I like having opportunities to enjoy myself in all the different neighborhoods throughout the 2nd Councilman District. And the Open Streets initiative will allow us to get out of our cars and enjoy ourselves as a city, as a community, and most importantly, I think it will bring a lot of people together.”

The streets are very much a battleground these days, and City Council hasn’t always been on the urbanists’ side. Urbanist groups like the 5th Square PAC had some success in getting their issues into the mayoral race last fall, and Kenney has been dropping them some crumbs since taking office. In addition to planning for a fall Open Streets event, the Kenney administration also allotted a small amount of cash in its first budget to create a Vision Zero plan aimed at eliminating traffic deaths. He’s also planning to appoint the city’s first Complete Streets commissioner, who’ll be responsible for making sure street design supports multiple modes of transportation — not just cars.

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