In fact, in the paper's "Holding Court" today it looks like organizers have in fact given up on that idea.
Mark Aug. 30 on your calendars.If folks are only "hoping" for active transportation, and that hoped-for transportation isn't on meaningful stretches of car-free streets, and the main goals themselves don't have anything to do with streets or transportation, and instead are community, downtown living, and the local economy, it's a street fair, isn't it?
That’s the day byways near the Capitol will close for Salem Sunday Streets, a free day of fitness, music and fun.
Joe Abraham, representing local institutions that have joined the city of Salem in sponsoring the event, promises four stages and eight bands.
“It’s meant to build community and promote downtown living and the local economy,” said Joe, who anticipates a crowd of 5,000.
For those who enjoy working up a sweat, the day will include a 5K Run-Walk, stepping off at 10 a.m.
Performers will be onstage from noon until 4 p.m.
Organizers are hoping attendees will “actively transport” themselves to the event by bicycle, skateboard, walking or running.
That’s a nice way of suggesting this: get off your rusty dusty and leave the car at home.
Consistent with this is some additional activity, including a car show:
Cruise Salem, Big Ballyhoo and Salem Sunday Streets converge downtown for the biggest street festival of the summer. Two main stages at the Capitol Steps and Courthouse Square anchor the celebration, connecting downtown to the Capitol with non-stop music, food, drink and activities. Saturday, Cruise Salem features a car show, Midcentury Mile foot race and evening cruise route. Salem Sunday Streets brings healthy and active living to the streets with a bike parade, decentralized dance party, races and walking tours. The Big Ballyhoo happens both days and features buskers, street performers, music and makers markets.Other communities have struggled with the characteristics of an Open Streets event, and it's probably true that communities gravitate to what is familiar rather than risk what is new.
The Open Streets Guide alludes to this gravitational pull of the familiar:
Despite sharing a few basic characteristics—temporary car-free streets, community involvement—open streets should not be confused with block parties or street fairs because the core objectives are fundamentally different. Indeed, while street fairs and block parties provide positive community benefits, they do not explicitly support physical activity or the broadening of transportation choices.Maybe the Salem "market" just isn't ready for an Open Streets event. But it seems premature to conclude this, since we didn't build off of the first one in 2013 to see if we could maintain bigger success as an Open Streets event in 2014. In 2014 it got smaller, and the City, as well as larger sponsoring organizations, haven't seemed very interested in the institutional support necessary for longer street closures themselves. Additionally, perhaps Salemites haven't been vocal enough about asking for longer routes. Or perhaps the uncomfortable truth is that Salemites don't actually want a true Open Streets event and prefer the fair and party format.
Additionally, street fairs and block parties are often one-off events whereas open streets are most often part of a broader, ongoing municipal or organizational effort to promote and extend the myriad benefits associated with active transportation. [italics added]
But it's not an Open Streets event. There won't be miles of car-free biking or walking - unless you want to weave and bob around people listening to music while you loop several times around the perimeter. Which probably isn't a good idea.
A comparison with another block party is interesting - and it may be that this, not Sunday Streets, is the summer's best event.
The Grand Theatre block party could very well be better because it will be centered on High and Court - centered on a proper downtown location with adjacent businesses, who will also be involved.
Sunday Streets right now is sidelined to the ghostly marble of the Capitol Mall, where there are no businesses and no natural adjacent activity.
The Grand's block party appears to be organic and integral to downtown, not something a little awkwardly bolted onto the otherwise empty Capitol Mall. It wouldn't be surprising if the Grand's block party feels more lively.
As it is, Salem Sunday Streets is a good thing, not a bad thing. But it's not an Open Streets thing, and maybe it deserves a new name that better matches the street fair or block party format.
*For all notes on Salem Sunday Streets see here.