Mark Warner to attend RVA Streets Alive!, vendor schedule announced

Over 70 vendors will take part in an event that will close 2.5 miles of road to give people a chance to hit the streets for some exercise and fun.

Update #1 — June 20, 2013; 6:30 AM

Sports Backers, organizers of Saturday’s RVA Streets Alive! (see below), have released the schedule of over 70 participating vendors that will offer interactive demonstrations and provide health and fitness information during the event.

Sports Backers also announced that Sen. Mark Warner and Mayor Dwight Jones will together walk the 2.5-mile course beginning at 11:30 AM.

“I’m very much looking forward to attending Richmond’s first Streets Alive! festival,” said Warner in a statement. “I know this event will grow year after year as an exciting way to introduce Virginians to fitness opportunities that will help them live longer, healthier lives and be active in their communities.”

For those interested in driving to the event, keep in mind that free–but limited–on-street parking is available downtown on weekends. Also, Standard Parking will offer $5 parking in their lots located from 3rd to 6th streets between Cary and Canal.

Roads on the 2.5-mile course will not be available for parking (PDF) after 5:00 AM on Saturday. Roads will officially close at 6:00 AM Saturday and reopen at 4:00 PM.

RVA Streets Alive! takes place on Saturday, June 22nd from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM. The event is free.

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Original — June 17, 2013

The Beatles once asked, Why don’t we do it in the road? On June 22nd, Richmonders will have the chance to do a lot of things in the road: walk, bike, do yoga, and more. The RVA Streets Alive event will close off a 2.5-mile loop to automobiles, allowing pedestrians and vendors to convene and exercise in the open streets.

“It encourages physical activity,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers, organizers of the event. “It’s a really weird, different opportunity that you don’t normally get.”1

The 2.5-mile loop will stretch from 9th Street near Kanawha Plaza and cross the southbound lane of the Manchester Bridge. It will then follow Commerce Street to Hull Street before crossing the 14th Street Bridge and onto Canal Street. It’ll then continue to Virginia Street, cross the Canal, and follow Byrd Street before reconnecting with the Manchester Bridge.

At least 50 local groups and vendors will lead an array of physical activities (see sidebar). There will also be free massages, blood pressure screenings, dental exams, food seminars, and more. In addition, the City will hold its Health and Wellness Expo along the route.2

Scheduled activities

  • Bellydancing
  • Yoga
  • Zumba
  • Boot camp training
  • Tennis
  • Table tennis
  • Line dancing
  • Jump rope
  • Hula hooping
  • Rowing

“This is not a fundraiser or money maker for anyone,” Lugbill said about the free event. “This is really about the people, the people that come and help encourage healthier lifestyles,” he said.

He said that closing 2.5 miles of roadway “requires a lot of logistics and coordination, but it’s what we do regularly with the City.” Sports Backers and the City have worked together over several years to close off streets for the annual Richmond Marathon, Monument 10k, and other events.

Since this is the first time Sports Backers have put on an event like this, Lugbill said organizers are unsure just how many people will attend. “We’re hoping for 10,000,” he said. But, who knows? The actual number may be closer to 25,000. “We have no idea.”

Events like RVA Streets Alive–often called open street projects or open street events— occur all over the world. One of the things that ultimately compelled Sports Backers to create a Richmond-based event was that others across the world have succeeded “in promoting biking and walking as transportation [options],” Lugbill said. Something Sports Backers wants to encourage in Richmond.

One of the country’s first open street events started in Seattle in the mid-1960s, according to Michael Samuelson of the Alliance for Biking & Walking, a coalition of 215 state and local bicycling and walking advocacy groups across North America.3 But he said that a similar phenomena in Bogotá, Colombia–called Ciclovía–has “been the inspiration for a lot of boom” in open street events across the country.

In 2005, there were only about ten continual open street events in the US, according to Samuelson. “We’ve seen that increase about 10 fold” in less than a decade, he said. “This isn’t like your everyday festival or street closure because of the real emphasis on public health.”

In addition to echoing the physical and health benefits lauded by Lugbill, Samuelson said open street events are a “great way to build civic pride and a sense of community.” What the Alliance has observed in cities that host open street events is that “not only do people want to see open street initiatives continue, they want to see it come closer to their neighborhood.” Some cities now hold open street events monthly, sometimes weekly.4

Samuelson also said that open street events are a great way to promote local businesses. Business owners in cities with open street events say that some people only realize their business exists because they walked or biked by it. Samuelson said open street events make people _re_see their cities, and “gets them thinking about how they use their streets.”

Jon Lugbill of Sports Backers hopes that Richmonders will see a new side of their city while on the 2.5-mile loop. “I think people will see the area in a different light when they’re out there on foot,” he said.

RVA Streets Alive takes place on Saturday, June 22nd from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

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  1. Last year, VDOT opened the previous Huguenot Bridge to the public
  2. Held last year inside the Greater Richmond Convention Center. 
  3. Richmond-based members include: Sports Backers, Virginia Bicycling Federation, RideRichmond, and Bike Virginia. 
  4. Samuelson said that regular open street events now occur in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland, among others. 


photo of a 2011 open streets event in Santa Cruz by Bradley Johnson

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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