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Closed to Cars, Open Streets Was a Hit

West Cliff Drive was closed down to all car traffic for six hours Sunday to let people enjoy a less hectic road and build a sense of community.

The long strip that is known as West Cliff Drive is usually a chaotic scene on the weekends with hundreds of cars cruising back and forth along the Pacific coastline and a cluster of tourists Facebooking where they are instead of slowing down for pedestrians on the road.

Then came Santa Cruz Open Streets founder Saskia Lucas, who managed to plan and sort things out with the city to have a big part of the West Cliff shut down on Sunday afternoon for six hours.

Thanks to her, no cars were allowed on the street from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and hundreds of people filled from all ages took advantage by riding on bikes, skateboards, Razor scooters, a radio blasting love couch on wheels, walking their dogs, and most importantly spent time with family and friends.

Jim from Santa Cruz was all about having the street closed and has seen this kind of thing in Europe before.

“It’s nice, definitely do it again,” he said. “I definitely got to see a lot of people, meet some friends here on purpose, and ran into a bunch of people we knew. I think it’s great for the community overall and I discovered some booths with stuff I didn’t know.”

Martha Dyer from Santa Cruz was a volunteer for Open Streets and likes the idea that Lucas envisioned since putting everything together the event.

“It’s to allow people to enjoy being on the streets,” said Dyer. “Opening the streets so bicyclists, skaters and everybody can get out to appreciate it. I believe that we need to get out of our cars more and it’s another thing that promotes alternative transportation and promotes health.”

Daniel Cristancho is from Bogotá, Colombia and was also a volunteer for the event and he knows first hand about the entire operation that started over 30 years ago in his hometown.

“It’s wonderful,” said Cristancho about the Open Streets scene in Bogotá. “Every Sunday and holiday’s they close the streets and main ways for families and vendors.”

Even though the concept used in Santa Cruz is the same one used in Colombia, Cristanchos said the vibe and atmosphere isn’t quite the same compared to a mellower crowd.

“It’s very different here because it’s close to the beach and it’s full,” he said. “I think in this case because it’s the first time. It’s more crowded then Colombia and over there people are there every week, so there’s not that big of groups.”

Dyer also added that the Open Streets program in Bogotá also had a message intended for folks to be more active then just sit around all day in the house.

“From what I understand there it’s more about they wanted people to more healthy and to get out an exercise more,” she said. “And here I think people already do but it’s to have a place to do it. A safe place to do it and that’s pretty exciting.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Kefauver October 08, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I agree with you, Beth, and am so glad you commented on this: I wish more cyclists at Santa Cruz Open Streets had been wearing helmets! I encourage you to also make this comment here: https://www.facebook.com/SantaCruzOpenStreets.
Peter Chester October 08, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Yeah, this was a fantastic event! +1 on Beth's note about helmets. It sets a bad example. This is a place to learn and exchange ideas. And honestly, I saw several minor bike accidents that could easily have led to injury if people weren't wearing helmets at this very event.
Joshua Vincent October 08, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Nice article, Juan! This was a really great event (I shot the accompanying video). I have to agree on the lack of helmets. There's a very lax attitude on the west side when it comes this. I think it has to do with the fact that many of our streets are often "open" due to having less traffic and bikers forget--especially around Garfield Park--that cars are zipping around just like anywhere else.
Juan Reyes October 09, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Thank you Josh, it was great to be there. Hands down my favorite was the love couch on wheels blasting music and giving people rides up and down West Cliff!!! They need to do this more often.
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