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Montreal’s Popular Pedestrian Open Streets

No wonder they call it the Great White North.

Last month, I journeyed to Montréal, a city I have visited many times in the last three decades, to see how much progress it has made in reining in the car culture, creating more livable communities, encouraging cycling, making roadways safer and, most important, bringing back freedom to inhabitants long oppressed by car drivers.

The changes are amazing — and they are the subject of two new Streetfilms, my 1,000th and 1,001st of my career. The first one is about open streets. The other is about cycling. Both will make New Yorkers drool … or book tickets.

Of course, Montréal has fewer open streets than New York City does, but the open streets in the Paris of North America are much better. Montréal’s 13 open streets are much longer and operate almost entirely car-free — car-free, meaning no parking, either! — 24 hours a day, all summer long.

“It’s about making the city accessible for everyone,” Montréal’s mayor Valérie Plante told me. “There has to be more room for cyclists and pedestrians, and arts and parklets.”

On Montréal’s open streets, you don’t just see people walking or biking as you see in New York, but also art installations, benches, bioswales, swings (with cupholders!), play areas for kids and bollards to keep out the cars.

Bollards to keep out the cars.

“It just brings so much joy and fun and, of course, safe spaces for our kids,” Plante added.

And local business owners confirm that pedestrianized zones bring in more money for struggling merchants.

A 1.5-mile stretch of Mont Royal Avenue is fully pedestrianized, including some side streets. That’s about the same length as New York’s best open street — 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights — but in New York, the open street is still filled with parked cars and only open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., limiting what residents can do, how many can do it and how long they can do it for. There’s a movement to make the open street permanent and 24 hours — a position supported by incoming mayor Eric Adams — but opponents in the neighborhood want the open street reduced or even eliminated.

Montréal proves that the real solution should be to double-down on open streets. Barricades keep the cars out — and don’t require a massive volunteer effort. And instead of dismissing older adults’ worries about getting around, the city provides transportation (via pedicabs) for them.

One final note for all us nerds: Make sure you check out the appearance of former Streetsblog contributor Steven Miller in the Montreal open streets vid

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STREETFILMS SITE IS DOWN!

Please see our other pages....

VIMEO for the latest features:  https://vimeo.com/showcase/8806427

YOUTUBE to see all of our Streetfilms: https://www.youtube.com/user/StreetfilmsCommunity/videos

FACEBOOK to check out our interactive page with comments: https://www.facebook.com/groups/22019704884

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There are now 100 Streetfilms featuring Protected Bike Lanes for your advocacy!

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"Protected Bike Lane Bonanza" Screenshot from Vimeo (Click to go there!)

Well congratulations to us! We've now posted our 100th Streetfilm that features elements, designs or pilots of protected bicycle lanes all over the world. But really it is congratulations to you, too, since you just have that much more evidence to show your elected leaders and cities that this type of safe design works.

Just go to this link on Vimeo where our programmed channel is neatly organized all 100+ films for your perusal. Here: https://vimeo.com/channels/protectedbikelanes

To celebrate, I thought I'd point you towards some of my personal favs and those with useful content. It's extremely hard to choose, but here are my Top Five. Please don't be limited by these!

1. Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

I made this Streetfilm over 8 years ago and it still holds up smashingly well. I've lost count of the hundreds of messages I have gotten over the years (especially the first three years it was up) of advocates, politicians and neighborhood leaders who told me having this film to screen/share totally changed the game in their fight for better lanes for their city/town/state. And at nearly 350k plays (that I can count) it's the fifth most popular Streetfilm of all time.

Best story from this trip: Within minutes of arriving to my hotel I saw my first platoon of about 30 cyclists heading towards me. It's like I had seen a bike unicorn and I hurriedly raced to capture it on film, severely spraining my ankle in the process.  Of course the same scene of bikes continued over and over. All day. Dopey me. Thankfully, biking proved to be the easier method of getting around as I was walking was so badly I probably should have been on crutches the 5 days!

2. Cycling London’s Bicycle Super Highways

A few years ago London's first Bicycle Superhighway lanes opened to much fanfare and immediately were filled up during rush hours by thousands of commuters. In fact, the Central Business District now has almost equal numbers of bikes and cars entering daily. There were scores of photos and short clips of huge masses of cyclists dominating the Twitterverse but really almost no substantial video reports of the lanes. So I felt it was my duty to get there this past summer and talk to many London residents about them and see for myself these immensely wide, beautiful structures that admittedly can make you get jealous!

And a related Streetfilm that details how an advocacy group formed to organize business leaders to push for the lanes is also a great watch!

3. The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

This is a straight forward, nuts and bolts documentation of some of the work NYC DOT pulled off in what once seemed like an impossible task: to create a safe and working protected bike lane on Queens Blvd, once named "The Boulevard of Death".  This was following Mayor de Blasio's allocation of millions of dollars to reformat the roadway in the wake of his passionate support of Vision Zero. Then at NYC DOT (now the head of Oakland, CA's DOT) Ryan Russo detailed the how every-block-is-different design came about.

I really wanted to make this as a historical document and thought it would be a little dry, especially a 10 minute film with only one speaker.  But this ended up a pretty popular Streetfilm with scores of curious folks around the country watching and other city transportation departments and students studying it.

4. Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

Made in 2013, it is the third most popular Streetfilm of all-time! At this point in my life I had been to Copenhagen and Amsterdam, two cities that do bicycling right. But I absolutely fell in love with the silence and breathtaking beauty of Groningen in the north Netherlands. For one, I laughed while walking the mile from the train to check into my hotel. Why? I didn't see one car! People seemed so happy. It was like Disneyland for bikes.

Besides the excellently designed bike infra, there is also a traffic circulation plan built in to the city that forces cars to detour to longer routes making almost every trip you can do either faster by bike or competitive to the point that you might as well not own a car.

5. Prospect Park West Family Bike Ride/

Sunnyside Family Fun Bike Ride

Okay, the fifth one is actually a tie (yeah, I 'm cheating a bit). But both of these Streetfilms have been very important in the struggle for holding on to very important bike lanes implemented by NYC DOT that were under assault from local communities vehmently opposed to losing parking and road space. In both cases, families and groups in favor of the lanes wanted to provide a powerful visual of the lanes in use, so they both planned celebratory rides that put children out front.

The top is the Prospect Park West Family Bike Ride, which in April 2011 was under attack by a Brooklyn group called "Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes", who - shockingly - really weren't for better bike lanes at all!  They were suing the city for their removal (eventually they lost over and over) and had uncomfortable ties to former NYC DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall. That's the skinny, but you can read all about it here in the Streetsblog archives.

The bottom is almost the nearly the same video but seven years later in the Sunnyside community of Queens where the struggle to initiate an integral pair of protected bike lanes on Skillman & 43rd Avenues went bonkers. It featured tons of Community Board drama - which still continues today - and a similarly themed "group" called "Queens Streets for All" which is really just about fighting for free car parking on the two streets.

Watch both videos and you'll see why if you have a bike lane in your neighborhood you should bring out families!

So those are my picks. Enjoy the list which gets automatically updated with each new protected bike lane Streetfilm we produce. As always these films are free to share or embed anywhere, used in their entirety in journalistic endevaours or even screen in your community (however, we do require permission if you choose to re-edit parts of video in other productions.)

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It’s an Awesome Array of Austin Streetfilms Assets!

When I visit any city, even like I did in October to attend the NACTO Conference (see below), I attempt to do as much documentation I can in the limited time I have away from any work or speaking commitments I have.  In Austin, I was able to cobble together a really nice look at what is making bicycling there so much more popular (see above!)

Occasionally, even one long shot can be really helpful and inspiring. One night after finishing a 30 mile ride with the Austin Social Ride (you can see scenes in the top Streetfilm) I came upon something I did not know: 6th Street in Austin, the city's nucleus of loud live music, is closed to cars at least two or three nights per week providing a pedestrian paradise. It was glorious, after shooting this video I went back to my hotel room and came back at 1am just to walk around and watch people.

And finally, just in case you didn't get enough of the awesome 3rd Street cycle track in Austin in the above film (or just need some excerpted footage as a tool to show your community or city) here's nothing but montage of cyclists enjoying the safety of the lanes.

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Cornell Awards Us The Golden Sasquatch!

How cool is it that we were awarded the Golden Sasquatch Award at our Ithaca presentation a few weeks ago?  Actually, heck, let's be honest - it's the coolest award we'll probably ever get.  Forget a head of state giving us a key to the city. Or a proclamation for a National Streetfilms Day. Or a million dollar grant from the Clinton Global Initiative to fund our work.

Okay, maybe we'd take that million dollars, but still, how cool is this award from the great people of Ithaca?  It has been enshrined in a proper place in the office.  And since it is only a "Partial Lifetime Achievement", we'll keep  working towards a full one.  Thanks!

And for those who might be wondering what might have possibly inspired them?  It coulda been this.  Coulda.

 

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Do you like our new helmets?

 

Danielle Baskin from Belle Helmets painted these beautiful and whimsical custom helmets for the Streetfilms crew!

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Streetfilms Q&A: Donovan Finn

Streetfilms:  The 78th Playstreet in Jackson Heights has been an enormous success the last few years.  How have the Playstreet Streetfilms helped?

Donovan Finn: I don’t think you can easily quantify how much mileage we’ve gotten out of those two videos. Locally, we’ve promoted them on our website and community listervs and bulletin boards  to help illustrate to our neighbors, that, yes, what we’re doing here is important, it’s challenging, and it’s something that is recognized by people outside our neighborhood as being interesting and worth emulating. I think Jackson Heights residents have so embraced and adopted the Playstreet as a permanent part of the neighborhood landscape that they don’t realize how much work has gone in to making this project happen in the first place and to sustaining it. Seeing the Streetfilms hopefully makes people realize that this project is helping set an important precedent and that it’s a rare and precious commodity in this city. Read more...

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Streetfilms Inspires Bike Share in Portland

A few weeks ago, Portland, Oregon's City Council voted 4-1 to fund the development of a public bike share system in the Rose City.  Right before the vote, Dan Bower made a presentation about the proposed project to the City Council, during which he screened our recent video, Nice Ride MN: Minnesota's Bike Share Expands.  We caught up with Dan, who was kind enough to answer some questions about why he chose to show a Streetfilm.

bikeshare

Streetfilms: Why did you choose to show the City Council the film before the vote?

Dan Bower: There are two types of people in the world; people that have seen bike share in action, and people that have not.  If you haven't experienced bike share, it can be very difficult to imagine what we're proposing, especially with the failed "yellow bikes" program in the 1990s.  In talking with our City Council members prior to the vote, it was clear that those who had experienced bike share were totally on board, but those that hadn't were confused about why a system would cost millions of dollars and what the benefits would be.  Given the choice of having to explain bike share to five Council members and a packed audience or showing your film, the decision was easy.  We chose the MN Nice Ride video because it did the best job of explaining what bike share is, how it works, and how it can benefit a community.  Having the Mayor of Minneapolis in the video certainly helped as well.

SF: Do you think that the film helped sway council members to vote yes? Read more...

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Donate Now! Streetfilms Inspires Action and Change Worldwide

Dear Streetfilms Supporters,

A couple of weeks ago we launched our campaign to raise $25,000 by June 30th, and we can’t stop the momentum now!  A big thanks goes out to all of you who have already donated.

For the last five years, Streetfilms and Streetsblog have been the world leaders in showing how proper transportation policy can make your city and streets safer and greener.  It’s critical we have your support – together we can inspire action and change worldwide.

More than 400 Streetfilms have been viewed nearly 4 million times - educating, enlightening, and inspiring so many of you to make your cities and towns work better for all modes of transport.

Your donation today will help support Streetfilms going forward.  Just look at how some of our films have already inspired more livable streets:

  • Our series “Moving Beyond the Automobile” debuted this March and already has seen almost 100,000 views.  The DVD companion and educational curriculum is in high demand from educators, advocates, and policy makers.
  • We visited Bogota, Colombia and allowed viewers like you to vicariously experience what 80+ miles of car-free streets were like. The next year, more than a half dozen major U.S. cities including Portland, New York City, San Francisco and Chicago decided to implement their own.  Many advocates told us our Streetfilm played a major role in swaying the powers-that-be to allow car-free streets in their cities.
  • Eight short months after the debut our Streetfilm about Physically Separated Bike Lanes, New York City saw its first protected, European-style bike facility, which has now led to many miles more of the same.

Every day we hear your stories about how Streetfilms move people to keep up the fight for livable streets.  We know that is our mission, but we cannot do it without your help!  Please donate to Streetfilms and Streetsblog today.

Thank you!

Clarence Eckerson, Jr.
Streetfilms Director

P.S. Make a secure online donation to help us reach our $25,000 goal by June 30th. Streetfilms is produced by OpenPlans, a 501c3 nonprofit, and your donation is tax deductible. If you prefer, mail your donation check made to out OpenPlans, 148 Lafayette, PH, New York, NY 10013.

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Streetfilms’ New Companion Curriculum Moves Transportation Issues into the Classroom

Streetfilms, in collaboration with Streets Education, is first-day-of-school excited to announce the release of Moving Beyond the Automobile’s companion curriculum.  Geared toward high school and college students, but easily adaptable for other audiences, the curriculum uses concepts from our Moving Beyond the Automobile (MBA) series, like transit oriented development, bus rapid transit and bicycling to help students better understand the built environment, transportation systems, and pubic processes.

Using national education standards, the curriculum offers a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, allowing students to explore complex issues that they affect and are affected by every day.  The curriculum is chock full of fun activities, innovative worksheets, and relevant additional resource suggestions.

We're eager to hear about your experiences using the curriculum, so please drop us a line anytime at info@streetfilms.org.  Click to pre-order the MBA DVD or order high res video files for download.

We'd like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this project possible.