The streets were filled with people of all ages skateboarding, biking, walking, rollerblading and dancing with an ocean view as they gathered for the third annual Open Streets Santa Cruz event. Local organizations, live music and performances were lined up along West Cliff Drive to promote local businesses and provide educational outreach on topics like ecology, sustainability and traffic safety.
The roadway from Lighthouse Field to Natural Bridges was transformed into Open Streets Santa Cruz on Oct. 11. The event closed off West Cliff from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the community to experience a safe environment without the usual flow of traffic to encourage and promote physical activity and health.
“This year the theme is ‘explore the coast’ and we have coastal conservancy funding, so we’re really promoting marine access and protection,” said Open Streets founder and coordinator Saskia Lucas. “We also have the Marine Mammal Center, and the city departments like the Commission on the Prevention of Violence Against Women and the Santa Cruz Metro.”
Lucas — a UC Santa Cruz alumna — founded Open Streets Santa Cruz County in 2012, which later expanded to Capitola and Watsonville. Open Streets Santa Cruz has attracted over 9,000 people annually.
“I noticed at the events there are a lot of families, but what’s awesome is seeing more teenagers, more college-aged people out,” Lucas said. “The word did spread more at UCSC thanks to the involvement of the UCSC groups in addition to social media, and as [the event] gets more established.”
There were numerous organizations involved, including Bike Smart!, a local non-profit program of Ecology Action, aiming to educate kids on bicycle safety. Bike Smart! promoted its program through a fun interactive obstacle course called a “rodeo” that teaches kids the fundamentals of riding their bikes safely in the streets.
“When we come and do public events, we promote general bike safety, how to wear your helmet correctly, where to ride on the road. Then parents can pick up brochures,” said Bike Smart! coordinator Kira Ticus. “We put on a little more simplified version of our bike safety rodeo course so the idea is to get kids familiar with different bike safety topics. The kids love it, we love it.”
While kids with bikes lined up for the obstacle course, organizations related to this year’s coastal conservancy theme, such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center tabeled. The organizations shared information about marine animal conservation, rehabilitation efforts and how community members could become involved with the causes.
People’s appreciation for the Open Streets Santa Cruz was apparent, as some brought their own picnics, danced to live music performances or simply stood near the coast to admire the high tides and beautiful views.
“I just like the fact that there’s community out and what I’m enjoying are these community pop ups,” said Santa Cruz resident Michele Swanson. “It’s great. I wish it was more than once a year.”