Q&A: How is Open Streets building on downtown Fort Wayne’s bike culture?

Many residents drive through downtown Fort Wayne’s urban corridors on a regular basis. But what is it like to experience these streets by foot or bike?

That is the idea behind Open Streets, a community event slated for July 14 that’s designed to provide a different perspective on downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, specifically along South Calhoun Street.

The third annual Open Streets event is bigger than ever this year, closing 25-blocks of South Calhoun Street to vehicular traffic from Superior to Pontiac Streets. The route connects the neighborhoods of West Central, East Central, LaRez, Hoagland Masterson, Historic Williams Woodland, Fairfield and Williams Park within the city’s Central Business District.

Sara Schaefer, who works for Trinity English Lutheran Church downtown, is a member of the marketing committee for Open Streets. Since she lives in the downtown areashe's part of a growing group of local residents who are cycling instead of driving to destinations like work.

This emerging bike culture is shaping the course of events at Open Streets, too.

"We have seen an increase in bicycle use among individuals and families over the years, so as part of Open Streets this year, we are planning a two-mile bike parade for kids and adults," Schaefer says.

Open Streets committee member Sara Schaefer shares plans for the event's cycling activities.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Schaefer to learn more about Open Street's cycling-related activities. 

IFW: How and why did you get involved with Open Streets this year?

SS: It's one of my favorite events the city does because it gives everybody a chance to be on the streets and to not have to worry about cars. It creates a feeling of community when we're all biking or walking together. But it also creates awareness for folks who are driving, too.

Fort Wayne's active transportation network has 10 miles of bike lanes.

IFW: So what's new with Open Streets this year, bike-wise?

SS: Along with the two-mile bike parade for kids and adults, there's going to be a bike decorating contest, too. People are encouraged to decorate their bikes for the parade. The church I work for, Trinity English, is actually sponsoring the decorating station. So, we will have a table with decorations for people to come and get creative with things streamers, balloons, pinwheels, and more.

Awards will be presented to children, adults, businesses, and organizations for best theme, use of color, originality, and design. Check out openstreetsfw.org for decorating ideas and to see a list of other participating partners.

Along with biking, roller blading was another popular activity.

There will also be an after-party starting at 4 p.m. As I was told, in years past, people wanted to hang out after the event, and this is a way to keep that vibe going. They'll be local businesses open along the route, so you can stop at different places and explore. Additionally, the route offers access to the Three Rivers Festival Art in the Park and Chalk Walk.

IFW: Beyond cycling, what else can people expect from Open Streets?

SS: We are expecting thousands of people. If you’re not a huge bike rider, there's tons of other activities going on and things to watch as well. For example, the Derby Girls will be out there, along with some BMX riders and skateboarders doing some demonstrations. There will be dancing and music, too.

It's a really fun, family-friendly event. I think when some people think of the event, they might think it’s for active bike riders only. But it’s great for everyone, and you don't have to worry about your kids going too far.

The Fort Wayne Mastadons and Fort Wayne Sport Club teamed up to teach soccer skills.

IFW: How can people get involved with Open Streets?

SS: They can, of course, show up and participate in some (or all) of the activities. Volunteers never hurt either. We need help with everything from check in to event teardown.

Visit openstreetsfw.org for details, and a full schedule of the day’s events.

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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