Healthiest Practice Open Streets program cannot function without the support of volunteers but where do you start?  Where can you find volunteers? What tasks should each volunteer do?  These are all great questions and this tool will help get you started!

Click on each volunteer section to see more detail 


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  • Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities Open or Close

    Using the descriptions below and the accompanying graphic, you can easily calculate the minimum number of volunteers you will need at your Open Streets program.  We suggest creating a master volunteer map of where each volunteer should be. Click here for an example.

    Be sure to check with the body issuing your permits to confirm where you can use volunteers and where police or traffic officers are necessary.

    Block Captains  Block Captains

    Position Description:

    • On a bicycle, oversee all volunteers within a segment of the open streets route (the length of that segment will be dependent on the length of your route – typically 1-2 miles/2-3km)
    • Ensure there are enough volunteers for that segment and that they are fulfilling their responsibilities
    • Similar to the master volunteer map, each Block Captain should have a volunteer map of the route segment they are responsible for.
    • Be prepared to address any issues that might arise within their segment of the route

    Block Captains need to be very responsible and trusted volunteers. Ideally the volunteers in this position would be trusted community leaders who are pre-selected.


      Roving Cyclists

    Position Description:

    • Circulate through a portion (1-2 miles/2-3km) of route for duration of an Open Streets day
    • Encourage people to move into the roadway and off of the sidewalks when the program begins
    • Routinely check on Ambassadors and Intersection Monitors and offer biology breaks.
    • As the end of the program nears (in 30, 20, 15, 10, 5 minutes), advise participants and volunteers, and ensure once it is officialy over that participants move back onto to the sidewalks.  
    • Under the direction of a Block Captain, circulate through the portion of the route under their direction.
    • Ensure this portion of the route is constantly staffed with the appropriate number of volunteers for the route.

    It is important that Roving Cyclists be familiar with the various responsibilities of the volunteers they offer breaks to.   


      Barricade Attendants

    Position Description:

    • Responsible for looking after a hard closed street, typically hard closed with a barricade
    • Prevent unauthorized vehicles from entering the route
    • Assist with entrance/exit of authorized vehicles (if permitted)
    • Greet participants as they enter/exit Open Streets
    • Answer questions as necessary

    Encourage Ambassadors to make the barricade “their own” with music, signs, decorations, costumes, etc.


      Intersection Monitors

    Position Description:

    • Stop participants on the Open Streets route, with signage or bright colored rope, when they come to a red light at a car crossing point.
    • Keep participants from entering the intersection while cars move through the intersection on their green light. 
    • When the participants have a green light, move the sign or rope and allow participants to move through the intersection.

    Watch this animation for a visual on how this would work

    This position requires concentration on the light cycle, therefore Intersection Monitor volunteers should be given regular breaks. 



    Position Description:

    • Collect information from Open Streets participants by conducting surveys
    • Count participants at the top of each hour
    • Conduct post-Sunday surveys with stakeholders along the route
    • Gather testimonials from all different types of participants

    See our evaluation tool for ways to evaluate your Open Streets program​. CLICK HERE

    Set Up  Set-up & Take Down

    Position Description:

    • Assist with set-up or take-down of barricades, signage, tents, activity hubs, cones, clean up, and other operational logistics before and after the event.

    The quantity of these volunteers depends on the length of your route, the required equipment to close your street, the process of setting up and taking down the program, and how complex your complementary activity hubs are logistically. 


    Set Up   Other Route Specific Volunteers

    Your route might require extra support in specific areas i.e. asking people to slow down on a hill, or asking cyclists to dismount in a pedestrian area, coordinating complementary activities, etc.  These positions will be specific to your program. 


  • Volunteer Training Open or Close

    Ideally, it’s great to meet your volunteers before the first date of your Open Streets program. That way you have a better understanding of what positions individuals will be best suited for.  Consider hosting a couple of volunteer training options where you can brief individuals about the program and they have the opportunity to ask questions about their positions. 

    We suggest creating a core curriculum that all volunteers will receive that includes the following information: 
    • What is Open Streets? (1-2 sentences they can use to describe the program to people who ask) 
    • What is (insert name of your Open Streets) all about? (I.e. Open Streets Thunder Bay is a program that will open Algoma Street from John street to Boulevard Lake to people on July 12th and September 14th to walk, run and play…)
    • What the route is and where the activity hubs are
    • What intersections are open for traffic, where transit routes have detoured, and other important travel information that might be relevant to participants 
    • Emergency situation protocol 
    • Necessary character and demeanor when dealing with participants
    • Mandatory arrival time, appropriate clothing and footwear, what resources they will be receiving (i.e. t-shirt, snack?) 
    • Where restroom facilities will be, protocol for breaks, etc.


    After each volunteer receives the above information they should be briefed on the specifics of their volunteer role and responsibility. Use the information above to guide the education of volunteers in each role.

    Give some thought to what you want volunteers to leave their training with.  These things could be:
    • Information sheet about your open streets program
    • Instructions for the day they will be volunteering (arrival time, duties of their position, where to check in and get their necessary tools, etc.)
    • Contact info for who they should contact if they have questions, cannot make it, etc.
    • Swag to share with friends
    • Encouragement to connect with your Open Streets program’s social media platforms to heighten the conversation about the program



  • Volunteer Recruitment Open or Close

    Once you know how many volunteers you will need for your program you’ll have to find that number of people to fill the positions! Where might you find them? Think about the kind of people you want to volunteer, what groups are already advocates of your Open Streets program, and who might have people willing to volunteer at your program or would be willing to spread the word about it?  

    These groups might include:
    • Your open streets webpage/facebook page/twitter and instagram followers
    • Recreation economy: Cycling/Running/Walking/Yoga/Boot camp groups
    • Service clubs
    • Corporations
    • High schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions
    • Job Boards
    • Local Businesses
    • Volunteer centres 
    • Active transportation advocates
    • Local leaders and their networks


    The easiest method to register individuals as volunteers is to have them fill out an online form with their information.  This will help facilitate communication and management.  

    At a bare minimum you should ask for the following information from prospective volunteers:
    • Name
    • Are they under or over 18
    • Preferred volunteer position
    • Phone number
    • Email
    • Availability
    • Postal code


    Other questions that could be helpful include:
    • Do they own and bicycle and feel comfortable riding it during open streets and with traffic?
    • Why are they interested in Open Streets?
    • Are they using Open Streets to fulfill community service hours? 

    Be sure that you have a system in place to respond when prospective volunteers fill out your online form.  Likely, this will be an automatic reply email expressing your thanks for volunteering and that someone will be in touch soon or lists the dates for volunteer training sessions.

    Sometimes it's challenging to find enough volunteers to staff your Open Streets program but anything is possible! Check out these innovative ideas to fill volunteer positions. Do you have an innovative way to recruit volunteers? Share it with us!

    Open Streets Thunder Bay's Adopt a Barricade Program


  • Volunteer Retention Open or Close

    Your Open Streets program will not succeed without the support of volunteers. So it is critical that your volunteers have a positive experience and want to return as volunteers.  (Also so they’ll tell all their friends about their positive experience → those friends are potentially future volunteers ;)

    So remember:  Say thank you as many times and in as many ways as possible!  Be creative!  No one wants to feel taken for granted when they are donating their personal time to a cause.  



This animation shows how the Intersection Monitors would work during a Healthiest Practice Open Streets program.