Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Come play in the street!

State Street in the heart of the Loop doesn't seem like a great place to have a hula hoop contest, does it? But on Saturday, October 1, there won't be any cars on the street, and plenty of hula hoops. And yoga mats, and skateboards, and a dunk tank, and people walking around, having fun.

State Street in Chicago's Loop will be the site of the city's first "Open Streets" event. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
During Open Streets on State Street, that great street will be closed to motorized traffic from Van Buren Street to Lake Street, and instead taken over completely by people strolling, playing four square, watching break dance demonstrations, and just plain relaxing. 

It's a free event (click here for the official website), open from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm, and will provide Chicagoans a way to experience the Loop in a completely new way. There will be something for everyone, from an Imagination Station playground for little tykes, to competitive races for adults in hotly contested events like three-legged races. We're already practicing riding our bikes at a snail's pace so we can dominate in the competition to see who can ride their bike the slowest.

There will be pop up performance classic Broadway hits by Broadway in Chicago Players, under the Oriental Theater marquee. You can shoot hoops with members of the DePaul University men's and women's basketball teams, or test your heart health with a jump rope challenge.

On October 1st, this man's activity will be transformed from "jaywalking" to "just walking".
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Many other cities have done these, and the nature of them seem to be linked to how much space is blocked off. Many South American cities have cyclovias, like the one in Bogota, Colombia, in which 75 miles of city streets are closed off to motorized vehicles one day every weekend, making them popular for bicycling. Some are hybrids, like New York's Manhattan Summer Street events, which closes off four miles of Park Avenue for recreation, with periodic rest stops for activities like improv workshops and salsa lessons.

Summer Streets event in New York City. (Photo: Jeff Pranton on Streetsblog)
Other city's events are just a few blocks long, and so are more conducive to sitting, strolling, and letting the kids play. Since this State Street event will be on a very wide street but only seven blocks long, don't expect to get a good workout on two wheels (although there will be a bike valet and bike rentals available). Hopefully there will be ueber-cute tykes on tricycles and training wheels, though. We're hoping there will be "pop up lawns" with chairs to sit in. Maybe we'll bring chalk and start a sidewalk mural.

This temporary lawn in London even had a pop up library included. (Photo seen on The Londonist)
But really, we're just looking forward to the unique feeling of ambling down the middle of State Street with our dogs, and our kids, without worrying about cars. At least for a few hours.

The rain is clearing out and the forecast for Saturday is sunny and mild, so we'll see you on State Street!


  1. Did you make it to Open Streets on State Street?
    I had a lot of fun.

  2. Great coverage of the event on Grid Chicago, Steven. We indeed had a good time on State Saturday, watching the skateboarders, playing hopscotch, and just enjoying the car-free street. Hopefully there will be more of these. I'm rooting for Michigan Avenue next. -- Michelle Stenzel