TAMPA — If you can’t be hip, go retro.
The concept of Open Streets isn’t cutting edge anymore.
Transportation advocates have been making presentations to city councils around Tampa Bay for years on the concept: shutting down major streets on a weekend day, then gradually expanding the street shutdowns to a regular weekly or monthly event.
The idea is to persuade people that gathering in an open public space is fun and safe and to help make the case for street improvements that cut down on pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.
In the bay area’s largest city, though, Open Streets was a concept that hasn’t always been embraced.
In 2018, transportation advocates asked for Bayshore to be closed for an Open Streets demonstration, and council members balked. Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin suggested at the time closing Cypress Street would be less disruptive and more diverse.
But times have changed. Mayor Jane Castor was elected, in part, on promises to make transit options other than cars more accessible and widespread. So the city decided to co-host Saturday’s hootenanny with On Bikes, a non-profit that provides bikes to local at-risk and foster children.
Castor, the city’s police chief from 2009 to 2015, said early in her term that she wasn’t opposed to loosening marijuana restrictions. But testing that political stance probably isn’t a good idea on Saturday afternoon.
Interested in heeding the city’s command to “wear your hippie best?”
Head to the thrift store (party store?) and load up on beads, coke bottle sunglasses and some huaraches. The city wants you to take a trip on Bayshore or, at least, a “free-wheeling” adventure.
Or, translated to government talk:
“Events like this one support the City’s Vision Zero and Sustainability and Resilience efforts by creating opportunities for people to do something other than drive.
We are committed to providing our residents with choices and multiple ways of getting around our city. Through our Vision Zero initiative, focused on eliminating roadway fatalities, we will continue to expand our work on providing safe places to walk, bike, and move around our city, which is essential for supporting a healthy, active, vibrant, and sustainable community.
We are excited to co-sponsor this event hosted by On Bikes and look forward to working with them on future efforts to continue spreading the joy of riding bikes with our youngest community members,” wrote Alana Braiser, the city’s Vision Zero Coordinator in a statement provided by the mayor’s office.