Open Streets

Evidence Rating  
Expert Opinion
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.

Health Factors  

Open Streets initiatives, also called Ciclovía programs, allow community members to gather, socialize, walk, run, bike, skate, dance or participate in other activities on selected local streets by temporarily closing streets to motorized traffic. Some initiatives operate regularly in the same location while others change locations within an area (e.g., different Open Streets dates in different neighborhoods); approach depends on the social, political, economic, and physical context of the city and neighborhood where the event will take place. Local governments, non-profits, or coalitions can undertake 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

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased social cohesion

  • Increased physical activity

  • Increased active transportation

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased social capital

  • Reduce emissions from mobile sources

  • Improved air quality

Evidence of Effectiveness

Open Streets are a suggested strategy to increase social cohesion and physical activity among community members2, 3, 4 as well as enhance use of active transportation options such as walking and bicycling5. Available evidence suggests that Open Streets initiatives may increase opportunities for social interaction across socio-economic groups6 and increase physical activity levels among participants7, 8, 9. Participants who attend multiple Open Streets events appear to engage in physical activity for a longer period of time during the event than first-time attendees8. Regular participants may also experience greater increases in social capital than infrequent participants9. Routinely held Open Streets events are likely to have greater effects than less frequent events2, 3. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

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 obesity10. 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 members11. Collaboration and buy-in between community partners, local businesses, residents, and city agencies may be important elements for successful Open Streets initiatives in urban areas12.

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 program13.

An assessment of a Los Angeles-based effort suggests that Open Streets initiatives may contribute to improvements in air quality14.

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Between 2008 and 2013, over 90 US cities have hosted Open Streets events2. A growing number of cities host weekly or monthly Open Streets events. For example, San Francisco hosts Car-free Sundays in Golden Gate Park; Seattle hosts Bicycle Sunday from May to September; and Westchester County, NY and Wayne County, MI have Open Streets events weekly during spring and summer15

Implementation Resources

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.

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 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

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

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