Transit Miami Campaigns to Close Wynwood Streets During Second Saturday Art Walk

If you're sick of weaving in and out of idling traffic during Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk -- particularly after a couple cocktails -- you're not alone. Many think the popular monthly gathering has gotten too big to remain exclusively a sidewalk affair, and to ensure the public's safety, street closure is the next logical step.

Local advocacy organization Transit Miami (TM) is leading a campaign to close NW Second Avenue for the monthly cultural festival. The group, which advocates "multi-modal" forms of transportation, is taking to the web to launch a "Put the Walk into Wynwood's Art Walk" campaign.

Irked with the lack of logical "walking" space at an event designed for pedestrians, not to mention the potential dangers involved, the TM team decided they were the appropriate voice to harness the efforts.

"We're limiting the potential of the event. We're dedicating too much space for cars and not enough space for people," says Craig Chester, a Transit Miami writer. For Art Walk to continue to evolve, he argues, more public space is a necessity.

Via Facebook and other avenues, the team is encouraging Miamians to get on board with convincing the City of Miami and local Wynwood stakeholders to arrange for a temporary street closure during the monthly event.

Currently, Transit says there's only eight feet of pavement reserved for walkers, while 40 is free for cars to sit idle, honking, revving and generally getting in the way of everything. Chester says the team has also spoken with the Open Streets Project, an organization that offers resources to groups like theirs working for temporary street closures so people can "walk, bike, dance, play, and socialize."

Chester urges that this issue is about more than just promoting street fairs and block parties. Another goal is to encourage people to find other ways of getting to Art Walk, besides via car. "The Miami Trolley is running; we can bring in tropical pedicabs; we can talk to DecoBike about a bike sharing program -- there are lots of ways to bring people out."

Street closures for these type of events are par for the course in other cities. Open Streets in San Francisco, California; Open Streets Hamilton in Ontario, California; Open Streets in Chicago, Illinois; and so on.

But Chester says we need not look any further than our own city to see the success of road closure efforts.The once thriving Bike Miami Days (scaled back under new leadership); Coral Gables Bike Day; the closure of Flagler Street for various events -- they've all demonstrated the possibilities in our own backyard.

"We're at a big lack of public space and park space in Miami, so we have to think creatively about reclaiming space for people. When people come to enjoy themselves in an emerging neighborhood like Wynwood, it's a ripe opportunity," he adds.

While the implementation of any street closure isn't likely to happen overnight, Chester says the first step is getting important local stakeholders together to discuss the issue. Obviously public support is key.

Sometimes, it simply comes down to funding. With street closures, police officers are often required on every corner, which isn't cheap. But Chester says there are ways around this. In some cities, slower intersections are simply blocked off with barricades.

"It's something we have to negotiate to make it cost effective, safe and possible."

To follow the campaign's efforts, you can find them on Facebook, or tweet your two cents via the official hashtag: #WalkWynwood.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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