Siclovia, an Open Streets Festival

San Antonio, Texas

To make a splash in the community, the Alamo Area Age Well Live Well program partnered with the YMCA to help older adults enjoy walking, cycling and all types of fun.

Identifying the Issue:
People are living longer lives and, rather than being sedentary, are seeking ways to remain healthy, connected, and fulfilled. However, they do not always have the opportunity or know how to do so. To help educate and motivate individuals to live an active life the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) established a grant program to support collaboratives that encourage healthy lifestyle activities, build awareness of available resources, and create change through volunteerism and community engagement activities.

Collaborating to Promote Lifetime Fitness:
When the Bexar Area Agency on Aging (Bexar AAA) received a grant from DADS to promote lifetime fitness, they quickly formed a collaborative of more than 60 community partners called the Alamo Area Age Well Live Well Program (AWLW). The AWLW program, intended to address health and wellness, volunteerism and resource sharing, was formed with broad representation and includes area hospitals, fitness programs, home health providers, social service agencies, insurance companies, and others.

Partnering for a Successful Launch:
The Bexar AAA planned a major community launch for the initiative. Looking to expose the maximum number of people to the AWLW in an engaging environment, the AWLW collaborative chose San Antonio’s Síclovía. Síclovía is a free event that turns major San Antonio streets into safe places for people to exercise and play. It is modeled after Ciclovía, an event pioneered thirty years ago in Bogotá, Colombia. Bogotá made waves when it opened up 8 miles of its city streets for people to exercise and have fun in temporarily car-free spaces. Now, Bogotá attracts over 2 million residents to over 70 miles of open streets, every Sunday and public holiday.

Engaging the Community:
Hosted by the YMCA of Greater San Antonio in partnership with the City and other community partners, Síclovía currently closes two miles of streets to automobile traffic to host a free street party and health fair, twice a year in the spring and fall. Along the route, the YMCA and its partners, including the AWLW program, host what are known as reclovías—areas where attendees can stop to watch demonstrations, participate in physical activities, or learn more about their health. The first Síclovía attracted a little over 10,000 participants, but most recently drew over 70,000.

At the AWLW’s reclovía in September 2013, participants joined 34 collaborative members at the AWLW’s Activity Zone and partner-sponsored Solar “Main Stage.” In the Activity Zone, participants could move from booth to booth and participate in different exercise activities. After each completed activity, booth organizers marked off participants’ “Passports to Fitness.” Anyone who participated in three “passport” activities received an AWLW t-shirt, and before the event was over, participants had claimed 1,000 t-shirts. By the Solar Stage, participants could join in group activities every half hour, like “Sit and Be Fit,” hula hoops, chair volleyball, salsa dancing, chicken bowling, and mobility device demonstrations.

Inspiring Physical Activity:
In a survey conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Institute for Health Promotion Research, 42.5 percent of 65,000 attendees surveyed stated they would have not been active that day had it not been for the event. And, of attendees that participated in at least three Síclovías, 53% stated they have increased their overall activity as a result. "It's clear that Síclovía events have helped to spark a stronger fitness culture in San Antonio," said the City’s former Mayor, Julián Castro. "More people are choosing to cycle, run and walk, to get active and care about their health. That's a great thing."

Lessons Learned:

  • Start small: “They can start small by combining it with another community event, such as a running event, and enlarge the event as its popularity grows.”
  • Collaborate for funding: Cities across the United States, like San Antonio, have followed suit, as it is easily replicable. This “Play in the Street” program can be performed on any street with city approval, and local officials, organizations and businesses can collaborate on the program. $22K was solicited from the AWLW collaborative partners for tee-shirts, the Solar Stage, materials and Sponsorship of the AWLW Síclovía "Activity Zone".
Rose Ryan, Regional Mobility Manager
Bexar Area Agency on Aging, Alamo Area Council of Governments

USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!