Sometimes, you have to close the streets to open them.
At the Town of Carrboro's annual Open Streets event, people fill booth-lined streets with everything from biking to dancing to yoga.
This year's Open Streets event will take place on April 3 from noon to 4 p.m. East and West Weaver Street will be closed to traffic to accommodate the event.
Open Streets, first held in 2013, allows people to engage in outdoor activities without having to worry about cars. The event draws inspiration from Ciclovías, a similar practice that originated in Bogotá, Colombia, according to Galen Poythress, recreation supervisor for Carrboro’s Recreation, Parks and Cultural Resources department.
“It was meant for cyclists, so people can cycle and get from A to B and not have to worry about cars,” Poythress said. “It morphed into a really fun event with people doing Zumba, hula-hooping — you name it.”
The Carrboro Bicycle Coalition founded Open Streets after receiving a grant from Performance Bicycle.
The event's debut saw more than 1,500 people in attendance, Carrboro Mayor Pro Tem Susan Romaine said. Upon seeing the event's popularity and success, the Carrboro Town Council approved making Open Streets an annual event.
And throughout the years, attendance has only grown, Romaine said.
Although the Coalition helps organize the event, Board member Heidi Perov said she wanted to make sure the Town is also actively involved in organizing the event.
“The first one we did was hugely popular, so the next year, we slowly gave more and more of the responsibility to the Town,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Open Streets was held virtually. In response, the Carrboro Open Streets Facebook page began posting resources for those attending remotely, such as tutorials on loading bikes onto a Chapel Hill Transit bus.
That makes this year's event — the first to be held in person since the pandemic began — all the more exciting, Romaine said.
“Getting everybody back together in person for lots of recreational opportunities, but also the community building that goes along with it," Romaine said.
Participants are encouraged to bike, run, dance, do yoga and use the space in the streets however they see fit.
There will also be booths featuring a variety of attractions, such as a climbing wall and a bicycle blender. The bicycle blender booth is run by the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition which uses energy from the biker to power a smoothie blender.
“So instead of propelling the bike, it's actually using the power of your body to blend up fruit for a smoothie,” Poythress said.
Although food trucks have been requested in the past, Poythress said bringing them in wouldn’t fit into the vein of Ciclovías. Instead, attendees are encouraged to support local businesses while they are at the event.
This year, The Animal Hospital, Dwell Real Estate and The Clean Machine are sponsors for Open Streets.
Romaine said building community is an important aspect of the event.
“We’re all really excited to be spending more time fostering connections that make us feel so proud of where we live,” she said. “We’ll be enjoying some good weather, enjoying some good food and, again, being back. I think that’s what’s missing.”
Perov said that because there aren’t any cars, Open Streets allows people to see the roads in a different light.
“There's no cars on the road, and you get to you get to look at a public space in a very different way," she said. "People are very used to thinking of public streets being for cars, but in fact we're all paying for the streets.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated who hosts the Town of Carrboro's annual Open Streets event. It is hosted by the Town of Carrboro. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.