Hipp JA, Bird A, van Bakergem M, et al. (2017). Moving targets: Promoting physical activity in public spaces via open streets in the US. Prev Med. 103(Suppl), S15-S20.
Popularity of Open Streets, temporarily opening streets to communities and closing streets to vehicles, in the US has recently surged. As of January 2016, 122 cities have hosted an Open Streets program. Even with this great expansion, the sustainability of Open Streets remains a challenge in many cities and overall Open Streets in the US differ from their successful counterparts in Central and South America.
Between summer 2015 and winter 2016, we reviewed the websites and social media of the 122 identified programs and interviewed 32 unique Open Streets programs. Websites and social media were reviewed for program initiation, number of Open Streets days, length of routes, duration of program, and reported participation. Interview questions focused on barriers and facilitators of expanding Open Streets and specific questioning regarding local evaluation activities. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed with constant comparative methodology.
Over three-quarters of US Open Streets programs have been initiated since 2010, with median frequency of one time per year, 4 h per date, and 5000–9999 participants. Seventy-seven percent of program routes are under 5 km in length.
Success of programs was measured by enthusiasm, attendance, social media, survey metrics, and sustainability. Thirteen of 32 program organizers expressed interest in expanding their programs to 12 dates per year, but noted consistent barriers to expansion including funding, permitting, and branding.
Though many cities now host Open Streets programs, their ability to effect public health remains limited with few program dates per year. Coordinated efforts, especially around funding, permitting, and branding may assist in expanding program dates.