Sunday Streets Explode

Closing Westheimer to cars is a major hit: Houston's first big step to becoming a walking city?

Closing Westheimer to cars is a major hit: Houston's big walking step

Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Houstonians flocked to Westheimer in droves for the first Cigna Sunday Streets event of the year. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Mayor Annise Parker made sure to come out to this weekend's Cigna Sunday Streets event. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Food trucks and stalls accommodated the thousands of people who showed up for Sunday's street closure. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
It's not often you can lounge in the middle of the street, but Cigna Sunday Streets makes it a realistic goal. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Many of the 20,000 people who came to this weekend's Cigna Sunday Streets event opted to ride their bikes. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
The opportunity for a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly street allowed Montrose residents a time to shine in the sun. Photo by Richard Carson
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015
Sunday Streets Westheimer 2015

After a successful launch last April, Houston's Sunday Streets program — which blocks off city streets to allow for pedestrians, cyclists and skaters to take over the road — is back and it's drawing more people than ever before.

The second season of the program, which kicked off on Sunday with the closure a dozen blocks on lower Westheimer between Woodhead and Taft, returns with a new name — Cigna Sunday Streets — and a three-year sponsorship agreement with the health insurance company. 

While you might not think Houston is a terribly pedestrian-friendly city, the Mayor's Office of Special Events estimates that more than 20,000 people came out to the first Cigna Sunday Streets of the year. With the streets closed to car traffic, Houstonians took to the empty streets in droves to walk, run, bike and skate their way down Westheimer. Area businesses happily welcomed the increased foot traffic and many booths were set up along the street.

 It's estimated that there are now at least 200 large-scale Open Streets programs worldwide and more than 90 are located within the United States. 

Pop Shop Houston hosted a special edition pop up market outside the popular resale store Pavement where DJ's were spinning and vendors sold everything from hand-drawn prints and vintage clothing to locally made hot sauce and ice cream.

"Cigna Sunday Streets is a family-friendly opportunity for residents to get outside and enjoy physical activity, socialize with neighbors and enjoy art and performances," Mayor Annise Parker says. "The pilot program, initiated in 2014, was such a success.

"Thanks to Cigna, the event will continue and we will be 'closing our streets' for years to come."

The program is part of a large-scale initiative called Open Streets, which originated in Bogota, Colombia, more than 30 years ago. It's estimated that there are now at least 200 large-scale Open Streets programs worldwide and more than 90 are located within the United States.

Upcoming Cigna Sunday Streets events are set for April 26 on 19th Street with streets closed from Heights Boulevard to Shepherd Drive and May 17 on Navigation Street, with closures from Jensen Drive to Lockwood. Fall dates will be announced in August.