‘Viva CalleSJ’ open street event to create six miles of car-free fun in San Jose, Calif.

Communities / Article

Photo credit: 8 80 Cities.

America’s 10th largest city – San Jose – is going to breathe a little bit easier this weekend, when six miles of roads are closed to cars and open exclusively to pedestrians, skaters and bicyclists.

The inaugural Viva CalleSJ open street event takes place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For those five hours, six miles from east San Jose to the city’s St. James Park will be an open route for residents to bike, skate, walk or use any sort of non-motorized transport. Along the way, participants will get to explore distinct neighborhoods – such as Little Saigon – visit local stores and eateries, and even meet animals from the local Happy Hollow Park and Zoo. There will also be bike repair stations, wellness activities and food trucks.

Viva CalleSJ is being organized by the city of San Jose and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition with support from Knight Foundation. San Jose originally developed around car culture but is now moving toward more transit-oriented development. The city hopes this open streets event helps “transform the way people see public open space,” said Ed Solis, recreation superintendent for the city of San Jose.

Solis said the event could attract upwards of 30,000 people; more than 200 volunteers will be helping organize the day.

Carlos Velazquez, outreach manager for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said they hope the event prompts people who are not regular bike riders to start cycling. “It encourages people to replace their daily car trips with bicycling, walking and public transportation,” Velazquez said.

“With San Jose being such a large city sometimes people don’t really explore these neighborhoods, and so this event will connect all those neighborhoods together and give a chance for people to explore them,” said Velazquez, who is a San Jose native.

Photo credit: 8 80s Cities. 

Viva CalleSJ will also feature a mobile exhibit for football fans: All eight Bay Area Super Bowl Vince Lombardi trophies will be displayed together and there will be autograph sessions with NFL players.

San Jose’s Solis hopes Viva CalleSJ will be the first of many open street events in the city.

The open streets concept, which has its roots in Colombia, has been successfully replicated multiple times in other American cities such as Los Angeles, where its “CicLAvia” event is reportedly the largest in the country.

Vignesh Ramachandran is a Bay Area-based freelance journalist. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. If you’re interested in the success of cities, consider applying to the Knight Cities Challenge, a $5 million initiative to make the 26 Knight communities more successful. For the latest information on the challenge, be sure to follow @knightfdn and #knightcities on Twitter or sign up for our email newsletter. You can send questions to [email protected]. And you can peruse the winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge and apply – by noon ET on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 – at knightcities.org.