|Mayor Villaraigosa riding |
his bike at CicLAvia
Vol 8 Issue 81
"Happy Sunday!" was the greeting on the streets of Los Angeles as tens of thousands of Angelenos walked, jogged, rollerbladed, skateboarded, cycled and dodgeballed their way along the 7.5 miles of streets opened to people for LA's inaugural CicLAvia.
LA is no stranger to special events but CicLAvia was unique in many ways. The purpose was simple, to open the streets, providing people with an opportunity to create community and move freely. They did, in ways unexpected and in numbers that exceeded expectations. They greeted each other, they stopped to socialize, they paused to participate in activities along the route, they ate food from local vendors, they smiled and they filled the air with the sound of conversations, greetings and cheers of approval.
Ciclovía originated in Bogotá, Columbia and they now take place around the world, typically on Sunday and featuring car-free streets and great accessible public space for activities that range from yoga and theatre to music and aerobics.
Bogotá's Jaime Ortiz, creator of the Ciclovía concept, rode alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a ride that started in Boyle Heights and headed to City Hall. This was the Mayor's first time on a bike since his tumble in the Bike Lane on Venice Blvd … an incident that has stirred significant conversations about how our street work and where people walk, ride or simply hang out.
Along the route, Brazilian Capoeira fans took over Central Ave., outdoor Yoga mellowed the crowd on 1st Street, a Comedian worked the crowd on Spring Street, the East Side Bike Club previewed Día de los Muertos, CrossFit Mean Streets turned Main Street into an outdoor gym, the Eagle Rock Yacht Club hosted a Dodgeball tournament and Chalk4Peace turned 7th Street into a mile of public participant art.
The LA Times estimated the attendance at 100,000 while other media estimated a more conservative 50,000. Either way, it appears that participants showed up in huge, happy, conflict-free numbers that exceeded the Mayor's anticipated crowd of 35,000 and demonstrated that the streets of LA really are for people.
The CicLAvia route went from Boyle Heights to East Hollywood, favoring park-poor communities, areas with merchants who would benefit from the crowds, streets that were pothole-free, and major routes that would not disrupt local residential neighborhoods. The "street-opening" strategy was modified from typical event street closure protocol, incorporating 14 "crossing" at key locations. Vast sections of street were car-free while motorists still had opportunities to pass through, eliminating the traditional confusion and frustration that often comes with major events.
LA's CicLAvia took a couple of years of planning, requiring the concerted efforts of advocates, event planners, engineers, and community organizers along with LA's Transportation, Sanitation, Street Services, and Police Departments.
Once the Mayor's team got behind it, CicLAvia moved forward, strategies were refined, streets were repaired, wayfinding was designed and volunteers were trained.
CicLAvia organizers say that the tremendous success of LA's inaugural event provides momentum that will assist in their goal to host CicLAvias every two months in 2011, every month in 2012, and eventually bringing CicLAvia to the streets of LA every Sunday.
CicLAvia Boardmember Stephen Villavaso summed up his take on the event saying "We presented the pilot project to thousands of smiling faces on people who came from all over the city to enjoy the streets of a wide variety of neighborhoods. Most of all, we had huge amounts of interaction on the streets with barriers taken down and we created a common shared experience."
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)