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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 07, 2017 1:00 am

Wheels are turning

Open Streets event aims to open eyes, minds

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Calhoun Street will be closed to motor traffic between Superior and Williams streets.

Berry Street will be closed from Fairfield Avenue to Barr Street.

Wayne Street will be closed from Fairfield to Clinton Street.

The event is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne City Utilities Department, with a grant from the Knight Foundation.

For more information, go to openstreetsfw.org.

As the Three Rivers Festival gets under way, one new event deserves special note.

Open Streets Fort Wayne isn't officially part of TRF, but it should meld perfectly with the festival's spirit.

Open Streets is a celebration of “active transportation”: walking, bicycling, skateboarding, in-line skating – any method of getting around that doesn't involve driving traditional motorized vehicles.

For four hours Sunday, two miles of streets will be closed to cars, trucks and motorcycles. Organizers plan to lure walkers, cyclists and the rest with a string of strategically placed activities along the route, including salsa dancing, Segway-riding lessons, BMX bike stunts and an appearance by the Fort Wayne Derby Girls. For cyclists seeking divine inspiration, the Rev. Dr. Gary Erdos, senior pastor at Trinity English Lutheran Church, plans to offer a “blessing of the spokes.” Some businesses on the route plan to open during the celebration.

This is the city's first Open Streets, though such events take place in more than 100 cities around the world, according to City Utilities spokesman Frank Suarez. The concept originated in Bogota, Colombia, in 1974. Bogota, a city of 8 million people, now closes 12 miles of its main thoroughfare every Sunday, drawing crowds of a million or more.

The organizers plan to make Open Streets an annual event, Suarez said. This year's event is laid out along the Calhoun Corridor and touches several near-downtown neighborhoods, but the plan is to center future events in other parts of the city. “We're starting with Calhoun Street because it's always been the hub of the community,” Suarez said.

There are plenty of good reasons to encourage the panoply of active-transportation options. Walking and cycling are fun, save money, promote good health and help preserve the environment. Quality of life is a key to a growing and prospering city. That's why Fort Wayne has focused on increasing sidewalks, trails and bike lanes, improving wheelchair-accessibity ramps and adding signage. Even with all of those good reasons and all of that improving infrastructure, it's possible some of us still need encouragement to find non-automotive ways to wander and enjoy our community. Thus, Sunday's celebration.