Carrboro hosts third annual Open Streets event

No cars could be found on Weaver Street Sunday afternoon, but that didn’t mean the heart of Carrboro wasn’t bustling.

Karen Herpel makes herself a smoothie with the help of a stationary bike-powered blender at Open Streets held Sunday on Weaver Street in Carrboro. The smoothie booth, operated by the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, was one of the event’s most popular activities and had a steady line all afternoon. (Staff photo by Brian Griffin)
Karen Herpel makes herself a smoothie with the help of a stationary bike-powered blender at Open Streets held Sunday on Weaver Street in Carrboro. The smoothie booth, operated by the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, was one of the event’s most popular activities and had a steady line all afternoon. (Staff photo by Brian Griffin)

Instead, hundreds of local residents took to other means of transportation — including walking, bicycling, in-line skating and riding scooters — for Carrboro’s third annual Open Streets event.

Started by the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition in 2013, Open Streets seeks to promote community building by shutting down Weaver Street to car traffic and lining the streets with various booths and games to encourage participants of all ages to get active.

This year’s edition, which blocked off Weaver Street from East Main Street to Elm Street, featured over 30 different booths hosted by local businesses and organizations.

Activities at Open Streets included a 30-foot rock-climbing wall, making fresh smoothies with a blender powered by pedaling a stationary bike, tossing pizza dough with workers from a local pizzeria and breaking wooden boards with a local taekwondo instructor.

UNC-Chapel Hill students Jeremy Kerzner and Kelly Stewart walked to Carrboro to check out Open Streets. For them, the taekwondo booth was an overwhelming favorite, even if it didn’t attract the lines of the climbing wall or smoothie station.

“They were over there breaking boards and jumping over people; it was pretty cool,” Kerzner said.

Kerzner and Stewart said they heard about Open Streets via social media. Eric Allman, chairman of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, credited social media and warm weather for Sunday’s strong attendance.

“Turnout is really good this year, I think the weather helps.” Allman said. “We did advertise more this year, mostly on social media, which helped a little I think.”

Allman said that although attendance figures are not kept, Sunday appeared to be the most crowded Open Streets event he’d seen yet.

After receiving a grant from the Alliance for Biking and Walking, the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition was able to fund and organize the inaugural Open Streets in 2013.

From day one, Allman said the goal has been to promote active lifestyles, even if it’s not done on a bicycle.

“We’ve had a large biking focus, of course, but we wanted to include as many people as possible, we didn’t want to exclude anybody,” Allman said. “What we have always tried to encourage is that if a business or nonprofit is here, that they have some type of activity. The goal here isn’t to sell anything.”

After successfully managing Open Streets in 2013, the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition turned the event over to the Town of Carrboro for 2014 and 2015, which Allman said was the group’s goal from the beginning.

Despite Open Streets no longer being solely a Carrboro Bicycle Coalition event, the group remains involved. It hosts the popular smoothie booth, and several members, including Allman, volunteer on the event’s committee.

“We’re still integrally involved, but more as resident volunteers than anything through our bike group,” Allman said.

With the third edition of Open Streets coming to an end, Allman said all eyes are on the future and the potential to expand.

“There’s been some things logistically we hope to work out with Chapel Hill in the next couple years, so they may be in the works of getting their own as well,” Allman said. “As for here, we’ll just continue to do our thing and as the momentum grows we hope to grow not only in people participating but the size of the space. The spirit is still there, but in the true spirit of the event we want to make a lot of the streets available and have huge bike rides.”

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Author of the article

Brian is a UNC-CH senior journalism major from High Point serving as a writer-photographer with the Carrboro Commons.