Reimagining Roadways: Promising Practices for Open Streets

Reimagining how streets are used for transportation. Recommendations for how to best implement an Open Streets program based on best practices and guiding principles research, and encourage lasting positive public health outcomes in an equitable and affordable way.




School of Public Policy


PLCY 807


  • Nancy Olewiler
  • Kora DeBeck

City of Vancouver:

  • Tracy Wilkins
  • Laura Jane
  • Tim Douglas

Student Team:

  • Elise Buckley
  • Wendy Ma
  • Alex Patey
  • Miranda Gariepy


  • Climate Emergency Action Plan


Spring 2021


Despite the increased availability and number of bike routes and community walkways throughout Vancouver, barriers remain for cyclists, pedestrians, and commuters to easily and safely access and experience their city on wheels and by foot. Roads and side streets are dominated by vehicles, preventing alternative uses by other city residents and increasing negative health impacts associated with physical inactivity.

The City of Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 Plan outlines bold action to address and reduce transportation-based emissions and encourage residents to increase their use of sustainable transportation methods. The plan includes a specific goal of implementing recurring Open Streets events, which open streets to walking, cycling, and rolling without the presence of motor vehicles. The events offer communities ways to shape a more sustainable and healthier urban environment for everyone to enjoy.

Our team was tasked with identifying ways in which the City of Vancouver could promote equity and health outcomes, while ensuring that event management and delivery is affordable. Through extensive research, including literature reviews, jurisdictional scans, and interviews with experts and prominent event organizers, we developed a framework of four guiding principles to allow the City of Vancouver to overcome common challenges that Open Streets events face. These challenges include: missed opportunities to maximize participation and encourage active transport use, inadvertent exclusion of marginalized groups, difficulty keeping costs low and maintaining regular funding, and lack of buy-in from stakeholders.

Using our guiding principles, we identified promising practices which the City of Vancouver can implement in order to deliver a well-received and equitable event that promotes the usage of active transportation. We also provide additional considerations regarding the evaluation of events, working with key stakeholders to reduce costs, as well as reflecting on the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic may offer increased momentum and appreciation for reimagining roadways.


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