Armando Garcia, a Transit Miami reader from Oakland, CA took the time to write this excellent response following the Wynwood Arts District Association rejection of the idea for a ‘open streets’ event during Second Saturday’s ArtWalk.
I’m glad you guys are making progress. I want to write a detailed comment in your support.
The suggestion made by Mr. Lujambio that closing off the street for Art Walk will cause confusion for motorists is questionable. I admit to being native but not local to Miami, and I have not attended Art Walk. But in my new home of Oakland, CA, we have a similar event called Art Murmur.
Art Murmur has grown astoundingly from a night for neighborhood gallery openings, to a humongous monthly event closing several city blocks, hosting over twenty mobile food vendors and several DJs and bands performing. The fact is that before streets were closed, the sidewalks were becoming VERY overcrowded. Walking up the sidewalk felt like pushing your way through the crowd at a Crystal Castles show. Pedestrians sporadically spilling onto the major avenue that flanked the event created accident risks for themselves and motorists, and major confusion was caused for any motorists trying to make their way through the smaller downtown streets. The swarm of pedestrians jaywalking was very difficult to navigate.
I believe the initial response was to close off one block or two, but I know as the event grew, their response was to close several streets to motorists, and provide temporary traffic controls (police officers, flaggers, parking attendants, cones, clear signage, etc) to appropriately guide motor traffic through and around the event and control the flow of pedestrians.
My point is that as attendance grew, closing streets and controlling motor traffic helped PREVENT confusion and provide clear traffic routes, not the opposite. It was before they closed streets that driving through this event was a confusing nightmare. The WADA needs to watch their event closely as attendance grows, and recognize that if attendance continues to grow, they will be forced to eventually consider closing streets. It will be the only way to provide maximum safety for Art Walkers on foot, and minimum frustration for motorists.
The benefits of open street space shouldn’t be ignored, either. Our event in Oakland now hosts large art projects and art cars in the streets, as well as many more local merchants and mobile food vendors. Closing the streets allowed the event to grow into a diverse and intense representation of Oakland’s culture. You can imagine that the economic benefits of managing and stimulating the event’s growth haven’t been condemned by anyone.
Miami is a city that needs more outlets for its rich culture and I want to see it one day. I hope that the vision for Art Walk is as big and exciting as Miami’s true potential is.
Thanks Armando for your letter.
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