During the past several years, cities across the country have started campaigns to encourage culture and car-free living by closing roads to motorized vehicles for several hours on a weekend. San Francisco's Sunday Streets has been among the most successful, and the mayor promised that 2010 will be bigger and better.

The idea is kind of like a festival with nothing really planned -- someone just got a permit to close the street to traffic. San Francisco explains its mission simply:

"Sunday Streets creates a safe, fun, car-free place for people to get out and get active in San Francisco neighborhoods. Last year’s two events drew more than 15,000 people each weekend creating huge demand for more. [It allows] San Franciscans to explore four different neighborhoods and participate in a wide variety of activities, including: dancing, biking, skating, walking, hula hooping, yoga, and just people watching."

[Full story] [Sunday Streets homepage]

Most residents tout great neighborhoods as a Columbus strength, so why not encourage people to experience them without their cars? San Fran picked four, and we could match that.

Clintonville: Close High between North Broadway and Arcadia Short North: Close High and Park between 5th and Goodale German Village: Close 3rd and City Park between Livingston and Thurman Bexley: Close Main between Parkview and James

Would it be a bit of a hassle for drivers with some place to be? Maybe. The thing is, Columbus is so car-centric already that a handful of easy routes can be found around any major road closure. Leave five extra minutes; you'll be fine.

Everyone else not in a car benefits. Businesses would jump at the chance to have more customers on off-hours. Neighborhoods groups could showcase nearby amenities. Walkers, bikers and skaters could walk around without fear of being hit.

It seems a bit weird to celebrate an empty street. In the cities closing them, though, fun times have grown organically. In Clintonville, I could see Embassy setting up a few ramps in a parking lot, Seagull Bags selling wares outside and people strolling with coffee down the center of High Street.

Soon, food vendors appear. Artists and crafters show up next. Before you know it, things are happening.

Could be grand.