Santa Monica "Coasts" at Open Street Festival

Bikes, skateboards, and rollerblades cruised the shut-down streets of Downtown Santa Monica in celebration of the annual COAST Festival on Sunday, Sept. 15. The city closed sections of Ocean Avenue, Colorado Esplanade, and Main Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide a car-free space for people to ride freely.

As a fairly new tradition to Santa Monica, the fourth annual COAST Festival aimed to inspire “people-powered and sustainable” transportation throughout the community, according to the city's official website. To this end, various artists collaborated with COAST for three weeks leading up to the event to host workshops on decorating bikes and helmets, creating cardboard signs, and designing masks.

Aside from road closures, Breeze Bike Share and Big Blue Bus rides were free all day in celebration of the event. The open streets and sidewalks made room for interactive pop-up activities. A roller rink adorned with a disco ball with music to match stood at the north end of Ocean Avenue. On Main Street, professional skateboarders ollied higher and higher off miniature ramps.

An abundant number of booths like Santa Monica Spoke, a non-profit organization dedicated to healthier and safer transportation, brought an educational aspect to the festival. The organization hosted an interactive immersive pop-up experience to teach children how to safely and confidently ride their bikes. The pop-up booth also offered free bike safety checks, including air pumping and minor repairs.

"Open street's events open our eyes to the possibilities of how we can interact, experience and enjoy our communities," said Cynthia Rose, director of Santa Monica Spoke. "[They] expand our views as to what is possible — streets that belong to people and not simply to moving cars."

As people cruised the open roads, various forms of entertainment appeared out of Main Street to saunter alongside attendees. Performers in face makeup paddled oversized bicycles and tin wagons, escorting costumed acrobats on stilts. The Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas sang for gathered crowds every half hour, while Dixieland band California Feet Warmers played their instruments while marching with groups of riders.

While the organizers of COAST emphasized sustainability and street safety, they also emphasized the power of community. With this goal in mind, the event coordinators aimed to make the day's festivities both immersive and interactive for participants.

"This year we saw even more ways for people to enjoy art, entertainment and community interactions," Rose continued. "More events and activities… [gave] folks ways they could become part of the experience the day of."

In addition, artist Molly Allis encouraged attendees to contribute to a community mural, located at the forefront of COAST. Illustrated by Allis, the artist allowed kids and adults alike to use markers to bring the mural to life.

"It was wonderful to see so many families and kids exploring and enjoying two miles of open streets," said Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer for the city of Santa Monica. "We hope it inspired residents to opt for car-free ways to get around in everyday life.”

Bike animation by Tanya Azari, adapted from original design by Luc Awater