Initiative history

You can learn about the history of Open Streets Minneapolis.

How Open Streets began

Open Streets Minneapolis started as an idea in 2009. It coordinated with the formation of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (MBC).

2011 and 2012 season

Volunteers went door to door to collect signatures for block permit application approval. These volunteers were with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. They collected these signatures in the winter.

Our vision

Open Streets initiatives from around the world inspired us. The vision was for Open Streets Minneapolis to be different from other street events that also need traffic control and an event permit. Events such as street fairs, block parties, races.

MBC called out a need to develop an initiative that supports broader City efforts.

City efforts such as to:

  • Encourage physical activity
  • Build support for active transportation choices
  • Enhance community engagement

The original vision for Open Streets Minneapolis events:

  • Provide a street environment where everyone feels invited and comfortable
  • Give people many lengths of car-free streets
  • Allow the community to receive substantive opportunities
  • Provide non-motorized activities without facing frequent interruptions or issues

How the program has changed (2011 --)

2011

First Open Streets Minneapolis event

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition hosted the first Open Streets Minneapolis event. It happened on a two-mile stretch of Lyndale Avenue South.

2012

Two events

We held Open Streets Events on Lyndale Avenue South and Lowry Avenue North.

2013

Four events

There were four Open Streets Minneapolis events. We hosted one in each quadrant of the City:

  • Southwest (Lyndale Avenue South)
  • Northeast (Central Avenue)
  • South (Minnehaha Avenue)
  • North (Lowry Avenue North)
2014

Six events

Over the next two years, the initiative continued to grow. There were six Open Streets Minneapolis events in 2014.

2015

Council resolutions

There were eight Open Streets Minneapolis events in 2015. An estimated 65,000 people attended in 2015.

Council resolution (December 2015)

We discussed how to make Open Streets Minneapolis more sustainable and transparent.

City Council discussions led to the following actions:

  • Establishing Open Streets Minneapolis as a City-hosted event
  • Developing a Call for Open Streets Organizer for the 2017 season
  • Creating an application for route ideas and/or hosts

Open Streets Minneapolis decisions made on December 1, 2015

The City Council resolved that the City will support Open Streets as City-hosted events in Minneapolis.

This was to help further the following policies:

  • Ten-Year Transportation Action Plan
  • Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan
  • Pedestrian Master Plan
  • Climate Action Plan
  • Comprehensive Plan
  • The goals of the Health Department

Other City Council actions

It was further resolved that the Minneapolis City Council will

  • Approve the number of Open Streets events
  • Their locations
  • Any partners in supporting the events each year
2016

Eight events

The 2016 season of Open Streets Minneapolis had eight events throughout the City.

Open Streets Minneapolis requires a yearly organizer that

  • Manages the program
  • Delivers the program

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has been serving in this role.

2017+

The City becomes more involved

Compared to the past, the City helped planned the 2017 season of Open Streets a lot more.

Eight events

The 2017 season of Open Streets Minneapolis had eight events throughout the City.

Call for Open Streets organizer

The City of Minneapolis released a formal call for a partner.

We sought someone to

  1. build on the success of the Open Streets Minneapolis initiative
  2. act as the Open Streets Minneapolis Organizer for the 2017 season.

Bicycle Coalition became our organizer

We choose the Bicycle Coalition to organize the 2017 season. The Coalition worked with us to provide an application for routes and hosts.

This did the following:

  • Increased public participation
  • Further engaged the City in planning for the new season

Duty details

We tasked the Organizer with managing all parts of 2017 Open Streets Minneapolis.

This included:

  • permitting
  • assisting in route selection
  • volunteer coordination
  • promotion

How we picked the organizer

We used many factors, including

  • an understanding of the role of active transportation in economic vitality
  • community cohesion and public health
  • experience organizing community events with many stakeholders
  • an ability to partner with the City
  • an ability to attract and manage large numbers of volunteers
  • an understanding of (and experience with) Open Streets initiatives
  • experience encouraging and incorporating diversity in event attendees and programmers
2017

Application for Open Streets route ideas

The Organizer worked with us to put out an Application for interested parties to

  1. Suggest a desired route or
  2. Host a route

We did this to get more locals to partake in in Open Streets Minneapolis initiative. We also wanted to make this initiative more sustainable and increase outreach.

The selection process

A selection committee (of both internal and external partners) reviewed the applications.

Each member scored routes based on many factors, such as, if the route:

  • Supports the primary goals of Open Streets Minneapolis
  • Connects many neighborhoods
  • Includes a major urban corridor with strong destinations
  • Has evidence of local support
  • Addresses equity considerations
  • Can complement other community engagement opportunities

After gathering to review scores, the section committee decided on the top routes. They then contacted applications to further discuss interest and qualifications.

2020

Changes due to the pandemic

Seven events

The 2020 season of Open Streets Minneapolis had seven events throughout the City.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to the City and Open Streets Minneapolis.

This included not knowing if and when we could gather for large public events. In response to this uncertainty, we made a few changes to our typical event season:

  • We didn't host any Open Streets events in June 2020. We explored the possibility of moving Open Streets Lyndale and Minnehaha to October.
  • We prepared to cancel any event that poses a significant health risk. We prepared to make data-driven cancellation decisions at least eight weeks ahead of each event.

Our first priority is the health of our community.

In a time of social distancing & economic uncertainty:

Open Streets Minneapolis events were powerful spaces for community healing. We made the best decisions to increase the chances these events can happen without compromising community health.

Contact us

Public Works

Phone

612-673-2352

Address

City Hall
350 Fifth St. S.
Room 203
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Hours

8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Monday – Friday

The office is not open to the public at this time.