Each Sunday streets across cities in the Americas are blocked off to all motorized vehicles. In the absence of cars from their normal ecosystems, new patterns of public interaction emerge in these public spaces. Instead of automobiles, people appear: runners, bicyclists, aerobics instructors, yoga teachers, and musicians all taking it to the street. Children play safely while their parents chat with old friends, and even make new ones.
A new contest provides an opportunity to capture this on camera. The first annual ‘Open Streets’ Festival is a chance for videographers to showcase the positive impacts of these people-oriented streets. The festival was created by the Ciclovías of the Americas Network with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The goal of the contest is both to showcase the enormous gains made in the Americas in terms of making streets safer and citizens healthier, as well as to encourage other countries to create their own Open Streets initiatives.
Videos must be in Spanish or Portuguese and can range from 45 seconds to five minutes in length. They must be submitted between February 1 and 15, 2014. The winning video will receive a prize of $1,500. Second and third place videos will collect a prize of $750, while fourth place will receive $500. Videos should be the author’s own work and tell a personal narrative of the aspects of open, human-centered streets that feels most important to the individual. More information on the contest is available at its website (https://www.festivalvicra.com/
The Open Streets (Ciclovías) Initiative started in 1990 in Bogotá, Colombia, and has rapidly expanded to some 350 distinct initiatives throughout 20 different countries in the Americas. Enrique Jacoby, PAHO/WHO advisor on healthy living and healthy eating has called this Ciclovías Initiative a “healthy epidemic,” which is directly fighting the increase in diabetes, heart disease, and cancer which have all increased 20-30% in recent years.
Open Streets can not only help individuals, but communities as a whole. Residents who participate in Open Streets programs report having higher health-related quality of life scores and feeling safer within their communities. In cities where interactions are often deeply segregated along economic lines, Open Streets can also promote social inclusion, interaction, and equality. In addition, it is estimated that for every dollar invested in Open Street Initiatives, two to three dollars are saved in healthcare costs.
Even if you’re not a videographer, there are still many ways you can make a difference, from participating in your community’s open streets initiatives, to starting one of your own.