Open Streets Pittsburgh (or OpenStreetsPGH, as the organization is called) is an outdoor event that has a very simple premise- to encourage you to get outside and be active!
The event is part of a global movement called Ciclovia which is said to have begun in Bogota, Colombia, in the mid-1970s. Here, the main roads of the city are shut down for several hours on Sundays and public holidays in order to open the roads up to pedestrians and bikers- thus giving people a safe space to get out and exercise in the city.
This trend caught on, and the Open Streets movement is now found the world over- including in Pittsburgh!
Although our Open Streets options are limited to the last Sunday of the month from May to July, the organizers ensure different streets are open in each event, giving you several miles of open space to get out for a walk, run, bike, or more.
Naturally, we wanted to try out Open Streets both on foot and on wheels, and in this one wanted to share our thoughts on attending the event in each case!
Open Streets Pittsburgh on Foot
The first option to explore Open Streets is on foot. We tried this method out during an event in 2017 that went from downtown, through the North Shore, across the West End Bridge, and all the way into the West End's business district. As these courses tend to cover about four miles one-way, you'll really need to be committed to do it all on foot in both directions.
Naturally, we were not.
For those who want to give it a go on foot, it is best to pick a segment of the route, drive over to find a close parking spot, and enjoy the smaller section at your leisure. We opted to do this at the West End to get photos on the bridge, and found that the ~1 mile walk in both directions was all we needed to have a great morning out. We were able to stop at just about every vendor along the way, and got a chance to people watch as some people truly go all out for the event.
Still, something about picking just a small segment seemed to not do Open Streets justice. It is a fun day out, for sure, but does somewhat feel like you're missing out on the exercise aspect of it for what it could be.
So for the following month's event we decided to rent bikes to see the entire route.
Open Streets Pittsburgh on Bike (or Other Wheels)
The second way to experience Open Streets is on wheels. We opted for this method using the Healthy Ride bike rentals during an Open Streets event in 2017 that went from downtown Pittsburgh to the Strip District and part of Lawrenceville.
As picking up a set of wheels let us go significantly faster than we can on our own two feet, we were able to bike well over 8 miles in just over an hour and a half, with frequent stops to check out businesses we've seen from the road but never made a stop to see inside. (That 90 minute bike rental was a little over $6 each.)
In this instance we were able to cover the entire course of Open Streets and could have easily spent the entire morning visiting as many businesses as we wanted at our leisure. There would've been more logistics dealing with the bikes (although many shop owners were outside and watching bikes for patrons), and we did find ourselves skipping the smaller booths along the way that we may have otherwise stopped at had we been walking (or perhaps weren't paying for a bike rental).
Not a bad downside in the long run, but it is definitely one worth considering ahead of time.
There is No Wrong Way to Experience Open Streets
When it comes down to it, there really is no bad way to get out and explore Open Streets. One of the main goals of the event is to simply get you outside and moving. So whether you visit a section of the open streets and check out all the shops, vendors, and views along the way, or hit it all on wheels to get a bit of exercise, you really can't do this one wrong.
That being said, this event is very popular, and the streets do get fairly busy as the day goes on. For those who may not be the most skilled on a set of wheels, or want to explore when the crowds are at their lowest, we recommend checking this one out within the first hour. It only picks up as the day goes by!
From there, the only real downside to Open Streets is that only occurs on the last Sunday of the month from May to July- meaning you only have a few chances each year to check this one out. The route changes each time, and is worth a trip out every month when it is available.
We hope the event can be expanded to occur every month one day soon!
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