Plan Your Route

A Healthiest Practice Open Streets program achieves the greatest impact on community health through a well-planned route. A well-planned route ensures easier participation, route activation, and ultimately future growth of your program - for both frequency and route length.

If you are starting an Open Streets program, the points below are intended to help you create the healthiest Open Streets program for your city. Please consider them carefully.
The Spine

Identify your city’s most iconic streets.  These are the streets where people already love to go, where tourists love to visit, or what’s on postcards featuring your city. This iconic street will act as the spine of your route and be the anchor of your Open Streets program.  *The spine of your route is not a freeway, bridge, or parkway.

Connect to Existing Features

Identify local attractions – libraries, museums, community or recreation spaces, parks, entertainment centres, or bustling business districts – and connect them to the spine of your route as these are natural attractions, usually with existing programming to highlight

Neighbourhood Connections

Participation in an Open Streets program directly correlates with people’s proximity to the Open Streets route.  People come to Open Streets when they are within 15 minutes of the route – a 15 minute walk, bike, transit trip, or drive.  Be sure to connect your route with high density neighbourhoods of varying socio-economic demographics.  

… Bring it all together! 

Link your Spine, Existing Features, and Neighbourhoods together to create a route that is:

  • 6 miles/10km long for cities with 250,000+ people 
  • 3 miles/5km long for cities with less than 250,000 people

These suggested lengths are what we recommend as starting points for new Open Streets programs. Your route should continue to grow with each new season of your program, connecting to more neighbourhoods and more people. 

Keep in mind:

Now that you have established your ideal route, you need to carefully look for any potential obstacles or challenges that could occur and develop a strategy to mitigate them.  In most cases, you will not have to change the route and the challenges can be overcome with some flexibility and problem solving.  Areas where potential challenges could occur include:

  • Fire stations and medical centres
  • Freeway on and off ramps
  • Access to churches and other major institutions
  • Major transit hubs
  • Access to buildings or facilities for disabled individuals
But what about traffic congestion?

Unlike other street closure events, Open Streets programs have select intersections open along the route to allow traffic to flow perpendicular to the street closure.  This alleviates traffic congestion as traffic does not have to completely bypass the Open Streets program. Watch this video for a demonstration of how these car crossing points commonly operate along an Open Streets route

Only intersections critical to traffic flow should remain open. Ideally, an open streets route would be designed with the assistance of a traffic engineer to identify what intersections can be closed and what intersections must stay open. Operationally, the fewer open intersections you have the easier the route is to manage.

Concerned our suggested route lengths are too long for your community?