Ahh, summer in the Rust Belt… it’s the fleeting few months of glorious sunshine and long days that we yearn for during the 5 months of bitter cold and snowy winters.
During these fair weather months, many cities pack a year’s worth of festivals into a short summer, which means weekend fun and exploration of our local arts, music and food scene. In my hometown of Rochester, New York, Park Avenue Festival headlines a warm weekend every year, as one of our most famous eclectic streets is closed to traffic and plays host to tens of thousands of on-foot shoppers, foodies and adventure seekers.
Park Avenue is a neighborhood. The street itself, along with the streets that bisect and parallel its length are small and slow, and predominantly residential. Needless to say, parking for Park Ave Festival is not an enjoyable experience.
During this time, this pocket of our otherwise car-friendly city experiences tremendous congestion and inconvenience when traveling by car. As a result, for two days, bike, shuttle and pedestrian culture in this neighborhood is king. Here’s why.
In cities like New York, driving and parking can actually take longer than biking or mass transit. Furthermore, the inconvenience and frustration and cost of driving and parking is enough to force people to make alternative transit decisions. While Rochester doesn’t typically have this problem, events like Park Ave. Fest create micro-pockets of density and walkability and as a result of this “popup density,” cars are significantly inconvenienced. It is in these times when suddenly, residents show up on bikes and by shuttle more than at any other time, simply because if you do live in the city, a bike can get you to and from Park Ave Fest faster than any other mode of transit.
Popup density during street festivals is a tremendous way to show what our downtowns might look like if people came first and cars came second. More importantly, it’s an outstanding way of showing how increasing density leads to other transportation options as a faster and more convenient solution to reaching your destination.