Thursday, September 23, 2010

CityWatchLA - CicLAvia: Putting People Back On the Streets

CityWatch, Sept 24, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 76

LA's CicLAvia is scheduled for Sunday, October 10, 2010 (aka 10/10/10) at 10 am and will result in 7.5 miles (it should have been 10!) of LA's streets opened to people and closed to motor vehicles, all in an effort to create vibrant public space for pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, and community members who long for the days when streets were for people.

LA's CicLAvia (a Southland twist on the Columbian Ciclovia) has been in the works for almost two years, requiring the coordination of City Council offices, City Departments, the Mayor's office and an army of volunteers. Long under wraps, the announcement was finally made this past week on the steps of City Hall.

"CicLAvia started over thirty years in Bogota, Colombia as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "Now does that sound familiar?"

CicLAvia will begin in HelMel, an area in East Hollywood that is a popular location for street festivals, and continue to MacArthur Park, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and through downtown to Hollenbeck Park on the Eastside. (Conversely, CicLAvia will begin in Boyle Heights on the Eastside and continue to East Hollywood!)

Restricting motor vehicle traffic is traditionally referred to as "closing a street" and that is the paradigm that is being reversed. CicLAvia is an opportunity to "open the streets" by restricting motor vehicle traffic and filling them with people, positioning the street as a "zipper" that draws people together by creating vibrant open space that anchors the neighborhood.

The original Ciclovia concept was based on the Spanish word for "bike path" and originated in Columbia with the main streets of Bogatá, Cali, and Medillín closed to motor vehicles and opened to runners, skaters, and cyclists.

Over the years the event has grown to include events staged by aerobics instructors, yoga teachers, and musicians who lead people through various performances. It is estimated that 2 million people (30% of the population) take part in activities on the 120 km of Ciclovia streets in Columbia.

Ciclovia events take place around the world, in Australia, in Canada, in New Zealand and in Mexico. They also take place in cities around the United States such as San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Miami, and Tuscon.

Los Angeles actually has some experience with an LA version of CicLAvia, having hosted a nine mile long annual History Walk ( that started in 1981 as part of LA Bicentennial celebration.

LA's History Walk (or Birthday Walk) commemorates the establishment of El Pueblo la Reina de Los Angeles by Los Pobladores, the settlers who made the trek from the San Gabriel Mission to what is now known as Olvera Street.

This year would have been the 29th annual History Walk, an event that sees the streets from San Gabriel to Los Angeles closed to motor vehicle traffic and filled with birthday celebrants, but the event was cancelled due to LA's budget crisis.

(Who knew it took so much money to let people walk the streets!)

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)

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