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Open Streets festival this weekend as city studies traffic patterns

Ready to get out of the car?

Then head to Magnolia Avenue on Sunday, April 30.

It’s Open Streets, a temporary urban space allowing residents to interact with each other through exercise, entertainment and fun.

Open Streets is scheduled noon to 4 p.m. April 30 on Magnolia Avenue between Eighth Avenue and Hemphill Street. Some parts of the route will be full of activities and vendors, while some will be more relaxed.

There will be food vendors, live music, water stations, a children’s area, artisans, fitness classes and more. And, don’t forget the dog, they’re welcome too.

Among the activities will be the Roll Zone — an entire lane dedicated to rolling fun on bikes, boards, skates and scooters — and the Stroll Zone — more than 100 community partners providing free, family-friendly activities.

The Open Streets concept originated in Bogotá, Colombia, where 1.5 million people participate weekly on 70 miles of streets closed to vehicular traffic. U.S. cities that have successfully held events include El Paso, Portland, New York City, Kansas City and Cleveland.

Along with the Open Streets festival, visitors may see another change along Magnolia.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve safety and circulation for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists, the City’s Traffic Management Division will begin studying alternative traffic control strategies at Magnolia’s signalized intersections at Henderson St. and College Ave.

This test will convert standard traffic signal operations to a consistent flashing red in all directions, transforming those Henderson and College intersections into four-way stops.

On streets with volumes and operations similar to Magnolia, all-way stops typically move traffic as efficiently as traffic signals, and often bring additional safety and circulation benefits. For example, more frequent breaks in traffic should allow drivers waiting at stop signs on the north-south streets to more easily merge onto Magnolia. The city’s plan is that the change will reduce the frequency of dangerous, high speed drivers that today will race to catch a green (or even yellow) light at these intersections. Pedestrians and cyclists should also benefit from these speed reductions and more frequent crossing opportunities.

During the test the city will closely monitor operations at these intersections, including during peak commuting times.

Options for the ultimate outcome include a permanent change to four-way stop signs, an ongoing mix of flashing reds and normal signal operations, or a return to current signal operations, depending on the results, according to a city news release.

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