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After successful first year, Santa Cruz Open Streets returns

Posted: Monday, Oct 7th, 2013

SANTA CRUZ — A year after its successful debut, Santa Cruz Open Streets will return Sunday on West Cliff Drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The free, family-oriented event transforms West Cliff Drive into a two-mile street park while the roadway is temporarily blocked to automobile traffic from Lighthouse Field to Natural Bridges State Park.

Santa Cruz resident Saskia Lucas, who founded the event in March 2012, said Open Streets "gives residents a chance to come together as a community in a really positive way."

Participants can walk, bike and play down the road with opportunities to sample free classes and activities along the route such as Zumba, hula hooping, kickboxing, climbing, yoga and dog agility training. Booths hosted by local businesses and community groups will provide resources for community, healthy living, and learning about the natural environment.

“At last year's inaugural event, it was so heartwarming to see toddlers riding scoot bikes down the middle of the road, a place they would never normally be,” Lucas said. “The families came out in droves."

The route will offer up quiet stretches of roadway, as well as spots with music by Flor de Cana, Watsonville Taiko, Coffee Zombie Collective, Santa Cruz Ukulele Club and other performers.

To encourage people to travel to the event with an alternative mode of transportation, those who walk, bike, bus or carpool will be entered into a free raffle to win a bike and other prizes.

For those who drive, parking in designated lots will earn them a treat at an Open Streets booth.

Lucas got the idea for Open Streets when a landslide hit Highway 9 and closed off through traffic, Lucas rode her bike on the road and discovered that many other people of all ages were doing the same.

Not only were they riding bikes, but some mothers were pushing strollers, while children were skating on rollerblades.

She began studying the international movement where cities around the world transform streets into temporary outdoor parks.

Currently, more than 80 U.S. cities, such as San Francisco and New York, have an Open Streets event, but the longest-running and most well-known event of this type is located in Bogotá, Columbia, where 70 miles of streets are temporarily closed off weekly.

In 2012, the Santa Cruz event attracted more than 9,000 visitors to the event and helped inspire community leaders in Santa Barbara and Salinas to create their own Open Street programs, according to Lucas.

The program's organizers are planning on expanding Open Streets into Watsonville and Capitola in 2014.

For information, visit www.scopenstreets.org.

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