Open Streets

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Expert Opinion

Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.

Disparity Rating  
Disparity rating: Potential to decrease disparities

Strategies with this rating have the potential to decrease or eliminate disparities between subgroups. Rating is suggested by evidence, expert opinion or strategy design.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Open Streets initiatives, also called Ciclovía programs, allow community members to gather, socialize, walk, run, bike, skate, dance, or participate in other activities on streets temporarily closed to motorized traffic. Open Streets events are free and designed for people of all ages and abilities. Some initiatives operate regularly in the same location while others change locations within an area (e.g., different Open Streets dates in various neighborhoods); the approach depends on the social, political, economic, and physical context of the city and neighborhood where the event will occur. Local governments, non-profits, or coalitions can organize these events, with funding from a variety of sources, including public funds, private investments, and charitable donations. Open streets events can be held regularly (e.g., weekly or monthly) or once or twice a year1.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased social cohesion

  • Increased physical activity

  • Increased active transportation

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved neighborhood safety

  • Increased social capital

  • Improved local economy

  • Reduce emissions from mobile sources

  • Improved air quality

What does the research say about effectiveness?

Open Streets are a suggested strategy to increase social cohesion and physical activity among community members2, 3, 4, 5 as well as enhance use of active transportation options such as walking and bicycling6, 7. Available evidence suggests that Open Streets initiatives may increase opportunities for social interaction across socio-economic groups, help residents feel more connected to their neighborhoods3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and increase physical activity levels among participants11, 12, 13, 14, 15. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Play Streets, a type of Open Streets focused on children playing outdoors, has the potential to encourage active playtime and have a positive impact on communities by improving safety and increasing community engagement and residents’ feelings of connectedness3, 10. Participants attending multiple Open Streets events appear to engage in physical activity for a longer period of time during the event than one-time attendees7, 13, 15. A Colombia-based Open Streets study suggests that regular participants may also experience greater increases in social capital (i.e., trust, mutual support, and shared values among residents) than infrequent participants16. Open Streets programs appear to increase feelings of neighborhood safety among participants3, 9.

Open Streets programs can benefit the local economy by increasing visitors to businesses, such as shops and restaurants, along event routes17, 18, 19. An evaluation of a New York City-based program shows Open Streets supported economic recovery and growth during the COVID-19 pandemic17.

Regularly scheduled Open Streets events are more likely to have an impact than less frequent ones2, 4, 20. Challenges with funding, permits, and the marketing of Open Streets events are barriers to expansion20. Planning Open Streets routes through diverse neighborhoods can encourage participation, and events in higher need areas may increase the likelihood of participation among those at the highest risk of obesity21. On-site bicycle rentals, targeted advertising, and coordination with community organizations may also make Open Streets events more accessible and attractive to a broad variety of community members22. Collaboration and buy-in between community partners, local businesses, residents, and city agencies may be important elements for successful Open Streets initiatives in urban areas23. In order to expand programs into rural communities, experts suggest engaging community members in the event planning process24.

Implementation costs for recurring Open Streets events vary by model and location. An economic analysis of a San Francisco-based effort calculated per capita costs of $70 and a benefit-cost ratio of $2.32 of medical cost savings per dollar invested in the Open Streets program25.

An assessment of a Los Angeles-based effort suggests that Open Streets initiatives may contribute to improvements in air quality26.

How could this strategy advance health equity? This strategy is rated potential to decrease disparities: suggested by intervention design.

Open Streets initiatives have the potential to decrease disparities in physical activity for residents with low incomes and increase a sense of community for neighborhoods with low socio-economic status. Initiatives can be strategically designed to increase opportunities for communities with fewer resources to gather for additional exercise. Available research suggests that Open Streets may benefit all participants regardless of sex, age, or Hispanic ethnicity13, and increase a sense of community by bringing people together12. Experts recommend planning methods for Open Streets initiatives that embrace principles of environmental justice (e.g., equal distribution and access to resources, systemic changes so the planning processes do not perpetuate unjust conditions) for communities of color; examples include prioritizing Open Streets events near community centers, building relationships with residents of color and community organizations, and including them in program planning and funding decisions32, 33.

Designing and implementing equitable Open Streets programs is critical to making events accessible, with equal benefits for all residents34. A New York City-based report indicated that Open Streets programs were less likely to benefit communities composed of people of color with low socio-economic status, identifying disparities in the quantity and quality of Open Streets events between communities34. Likewise, a Colombia-based analysis reported on inequities in the distribution of Ciclovía events in urban areas, with fewer implemented in under-resourced urban areas with lower incomes than in wealthier urban areas35.

What is the relevant historical background?

Urban areas in the U.S. experienced unrestrained industrialization, often without environmental regulations and land use controls. Early U.S. environmental movements focused on conservation and nature preservation and did not consider environmental urban inequities or public health36. In the 1950-1960s, the urban renewal movement emphasized urban cleanup, redevelopment, and revitalization projects and was planned and designed by city developers, excluding the voices of residents, mostly people of color. Urban renewal destroyed homes and community institutions such as churches, schools, recreational facilities, and ethnic organizations37. As a result, households of color with low incomes were displaced to under-resourced urban areas and suffered from gentrification and environmental injustice36.

Disinvestment in and unequal distribution of recreational facilities, parks and green space across communities resulted in disparities in access to safe and accessible parks in communities with low incomes and communities of color38, 39. An analysis of public parks in 14,000 U.S. cities and towns reports that parks are more likely to be smaller and serve more people in communities with low incomes and communities of color, compared to communities with higher incomes and white communities40. Disparities in the size and quality of parks means that some communities have fewer places to engage in outdoor activities, have less access to cooling shade, and experience poorer air quality.

Equity Considerations
  • Do the design and planning processes for Open Streets programs engage the intended participants, such as residents of color, and reflect their input in events?
  • What resources and partnerships are needed to make Open Streets programs active and attractive as a way to increase participation among residents of various neighborhoods?
  • What steps can Open Streets programs take to secure funding to host events regularly and sustainably, and to expand to additional communities?
Implementation Examples

As of January 2016, more than 120 U.S. cities have hosted Open Streets events20. A growing number of cities host weekly or monthly Open Streets events. For example, Los Angeles County has hosted CicLAvia since 2010; in 2023, CicLAvia events will rotate throughout the county and occur monthly or bi-monthly, as a way to make the streets of Los Angeles more supportive and neighborhoods more connected27. In 2022, from May through November, Washington, D.C. hosted monthly Open Streets events featuring a mix of short and long routes28. San Francisco hosts Sunday Streets from April to October29 and Seattle hosts Bicycle Weekends, starting on Friday evenings and lasting through Monday mornings, from May to September30.

The Open Streets Project provides a list of Open Streets programs across the U.S., featuring information about the organizers, funding, route lengths, and frequency of events1. Open Streets has also been used as a strategy to support residents and local businesses in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic31.

Implementation Resources

Resources with a focus on equity.

Open Streets - Open Streets Project. A collaboration between 8 80 Cities and Streets Plans.

8 80 Cities - 8 80 Cities. Creating cities for all.

ABW-OS guide 2012 - The Street Plans Collaborative, Alliance for Biking & Walking (ABW). Open streets guide. 2012.

ALR-OS measuring success - Hipp J, Eyler A. Open streets initiatives: Measuring success toolkit. St. Louis, MO: Active Living Research (ALR); 2014.

SRTSNP-Safe routes to healthy foods - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Healthy communities: Safe routes to healthy foods.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 Open Streets - Open Streets Project. A collaboration between 8 80 Cities and Streets Plans.

2 Hipp 2014 - Hipp J, Eyler AA, Zieff SG, Samuelson MA. Taking physical activity to the streets: The popularity of ciclovía and open streets initiatives in the United States. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2014;28(3):114-116.

3 Bridges 2020 - Bridges CN, Prochnow TM, Wilkins EC, Porter KMP, Meyer MRU. Examining the implementation of Play Streets: A systematic review of the grey literature. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2020;26(3):E1-E10.

4 Kuhlberg 2014 - Kuhlberg JA, Hipp JA, Eyler AA, Chang G. Open Streets initiatives in the United States: Closed to traffic, open to physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2014;11(8):1468-1474.

5 CDC-WHO CC - Lankenau BB, Pratt M, Schmid T, Torres A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Physical Activity and Health: A condensed history. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

6 Eyler 2015 - Eyler AA, Hipp A, Lokuta J. Moving the barricades to physical activity: A qualitative analysis of Open Streets initiatives across the United States. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2015;30(1):e50-e58.

7 Torres 2016 - Torres A, Steward J, Strasser S, et al. Atlanta Streets Alive: A movement building a culture of health in an urban environment. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2016;13(2):239-246.

8 Sarmiento 2010 - Sarmiento O, Torres A, Jacoby E, et al. The Ciclovía-Recreativa: A mass-recreational program with public health potential. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2010;7(2):S163-S180.

9 Zieff 2022 - Zieff SG, Musselman E, Guedes C, et al. Neighborhood social environment at an Open Streets initiative. Journal of Community Practice. 2022;30(1):20-33.

10 Zieff 2016 - Zieff SG, Chaudhuri A, Musselman E. Creating neighborhood recreational space for youth and children in the urban environment: Play(ing in the) Streets in San Francisco. Children and Youth Services Review. 2016;70:95-101.

11 Hipp 2013 - Hipp JA, Eyler AA, Kuhlberg JA. Target population involvement in urban ciclovias: A preliminary evaluation of St. Louis open streets. Journal of Urban Health. 2013;90(6):1010-1015.

12 Douglas 2019 - Douglas G, Agrawal AW, Currin-Percival M, Cushing K, DeHaan J. Community benefits and lessons for local engagement in a California Open Streets event: A mixed-methods assessment of Viva CalleSJ 2018. Report 19-21. San José, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute; U.S. Department of Transportation; 2019.

13 Salazar-Collier 2018 - Salazar-Collier CL, Reininger B, Gowen R, Rodriguez A, Wilkinson A. Evaluation of event physical activity engagement at an open streets initiative within a Texas–Mexico border town. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2018;15(8):605-612.

14 Cohen 2016 - Cohen D, Han B, Derose KP, et al. CicLAvia: Evaluation of participation, physical activity and cost of an open streets event in Los Angeles. Preventive Medicine. 2016;90(3):26-33.

15 Zieff 2014 - Zieff SG, Kim M, Wilson J, Tierney P. A “Ciclovia” in San Francisco: Characteristics and physical activity behavior of Sunday Streets participants. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2014;11:249-255.

16 Torres 2013 - Torres A, Sarmiento OL, Stauber C, Zarama R. The Ciclovia and Cicloruta programs: Promising interventions to promote physical activity and social capital in Bogota, Colombia. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(2):23-30.

17 NYC DOT 2022 - New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Streets for recovery: The economic benefits of the NYC Open Streets program. 2022.

18 Chaudhuri 2015 - Chaudhuri A, Zieff SG. Do Open Streets initiatives impact local businesses? The case of Sunday Streets in San Francisco, California. Journal of Transport & Health. 2015;2(4):529-539.

19 Gauna 2021 - Gauna D, Brown J, Lu K, Martinez M, Ablah E. An evaluation of a Kansas Open Streets event’s impact on businesses. Kansas Journal of Medicine. 2021;14(2):187-191.

20 Hipp 2017a - Hipp JA, Bird A, van Bakergem M, Yarnall E. Moving targets: Promoting physical activity in public spaces via open streets in the U.S. Preventive Medicine. 2017;103:S15-S20.

21 Wolf 2015 - Wolf SA, Grimshaw VE, Sacks R, et al. The impact of a temporary recurrent street closure on physical activity in New York City. Journal of Urban Health. 2015;92(2):230-241.

22 Engelberg 2014 - Engelberg JK, Carlson JA, Black ML, Ryan S, Sallis JF. Ciclovía participation and impacts in San Diego, CA: The first CicloSDias. Preventive Medicine. 2014;69:S66-S73.

23 Zieff 2013 - Zieff SG, Hipp JA, Eyler AA, Kim MS. Ciclovía initiatives: Engaging communities, partners, and policy makers along the route to success. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2013;19(3):S74-S82.

24 Ko 2021 - Ko LK, Jimenez E, Cisneros O, et al. Participation and engagement of a rural community in Ciclovía: Progressing from research intervention to community adoption. BMC Public Health. 2021;21:1964.

25 Montes 2011 - Montes F, Sarmiento OL, Zarama R, et al. Do health benefits outweigh the costs of mass recreational programs? An economic analysis of four ciclovía programs. Journal of Urban Health. 2011;89(1):153-170.

26 Shu 2016 - Shu S, Batteate C, Cole B, Froines J, Zhu Y. Air quality impacts of a CicLAvia event in downtown Los Angeles, CA. Environmental Pollution. 2016;208:170-176.

27 CicLAvia - CicLAvia. CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets.

28 Open Streets DC - Open Streets DC. District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Washington, D.C.

29 Sunday Streets SF - Sunday Streets San Francisco.

30 Bicycle Weekends - Hirsch C. Bicycle Weekends return to Lake Washington Boulevard this summer. City of Seattle, Parks and Recreation. 2022.

31 NACTO-Pandemic response - National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Streets for pandemic response & recovery. New York, NY; National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Global Designing Cities Initiative: 2020.

32 Slabaugh 2022 - Slabaugh D, Németh J, Rigolon A. Open streets for whom? Journal of the American Planning Association. 2022;88(2):253-261.

33 Bloomberg-Thomas 2020 - Thomas D. “Safe streets” are not safe for Black lives. Bloomberg. 2020.

34 TA 2021 - Transportation Alternatives (TA). Open Streets forever: The case for permanent 24/7 Open Streets. 2021.

35 Parra 2021 - Parra DC, Adlakha D, Pinzon JD, et al. Geographic distribution of the Ciclovia and Recreovia programs by neighborhood SES in Bogotá: How unequal is the geographic access assessed via distance-based measures? Journal of Urban Health. 2021;98:101-110.

36 NEJAC 2006 - The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). Unintended impacts of redevelopment and revitalization efforts in five environmental justice communities. 2006.

37 IHH-Urban renewal - The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook (IHH). Urban renewal.

38 CAP-Rowland-Shea 2020 - Rowland-Shea J, Doshi S, Edberg S, Fanger R. The nature gap: Confronting racial and economic disparities in the destruction and protection of nature in America. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress (CAP); 2020.

39 TPL-Chapman 2021 - Chapman R, Foderaro L, Hwang L, et al. Parks and an equitable recovery. San Francisco, CA: The Trust for Public Land (TPL); 2021.

40 TPL 2020 - The Trust for Public Land (TPL). The heat is on. San Francisco, CA: The Trust for Public Land (TPL); 2020.