Sometimes, life can get you down. Towards the end of the summer of 2009, I was feeling like nothing would ever change in Los Angeles. The cycling communtiy made some big strides in getting more people to ride bikes, and had changed a few small laws and policies, but people were still getting killed and maimed in daily hit-and-run crashes, the mayor’s office didn’t care about bicycling as transport despite his “green” rhetoric, and I didn’t see anything else on the near horizon to change things.
When I first heard about a group of citizens organizing a CicLAvia in Los Angeles, I thought it was a typo. I’ve seen Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Columbia, give a talk about something called a Ciclovia several years ago at the MTA headquarters in Downtown LA. The Ciclovia in Bogota is a weekly event where the main roads in the city are shut down to automobile traffic for a few hours, and the people are allowed to ride their bikes, roller skate, walk, and play on a Sunday morning. So, what is this thing everyone is calling a “CicLAvia”?
Quite simply, the CicLAvia is Los Angeles’ version of Ciclovia. We’re a bit behind the on this as well! New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities have each implemented their own versions of a Ciclovia.
To some it may seem silly, or trivial, to close off a long stretch of a major roadway on a Sunday morning to allow people to get some exercise, ride their bikes, and enjoy the streets. To me, it seemed like the most significant shift in Los Angeles’ political culture I was likely to encounter in my lifetime.
This 10 minute short film was created by the crew at StreetFilms in NYC in 2007.
As the old European saying goes “City air makes you free” – but in Los Angeles we’ve intentionally destroyed our ability to move about freely by running massive car-only highways right through the middle of town and closing off access to most destinations for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. The result is not only a frustratingly congested commute by car, but a legacy of toxic air quality, a shuttering of small local retailers and manufacturing, and unsafe and unpleasant streets.
For these reasons and for many others, I wrote this letter of support for the CicLAvia:
February 20, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
Ciclavia is an event which will bring together Los Angeles’ local business interests, activists, advocates, bike riders, and neighbors – to convince our local leaders that bikes belong on the road and improve the bike business.
L.A. is well known for it’s “car culture”, freeways, and some of the world’s worst automobile traffic.
However, in the past five years Los Angeles has seen explosive growth in a “bicycle culture” – which has drawn in citizens from all backgrounds and economic strata. L.A. has four separate bike repair collectives and dozens of daily social bike rides, exemplified by the Midnight Ridazz.
Yet we face several big hurdles, chief among those is acceptance of bicycles by our local political leaders as a means of transport. We are in need of a grand, symbolic, event to show that bicycles are good for the city and its citizens.
CicLAvia is the embodiment of what so many of us in the cycling community have been pushing for the past several years – mainstream, accessible, bicycle amenities.
Ciclavia will increase the market for bicycles in L.A. – bringing transportation cycling to the people and transforming the political landscape.
We fully endorse the CicLAvia, and hope that you will work to see that this event takes place in our city!
Co-Owner, Flying Pigeon-LA, LLC
With enough lobbying, the mayor will get the hint and work to see CicLAvia happen every month or every weekend on some big LA streets. It would be such a nice change of pace to the hurried, unpleasant, lives most of our streets in LA create for us.
I was feeling bad about the future of transportation in LA a short time ago, until I found about the efforts to of a dedicated group of volunteers to create a Los Angeles-style Ciclovia – a CicLAvia. Since then, I’ve felt that this event will provide the push to our city’s culture and political landscape to put bicycles in the mainstream of transportation planning (where they belong).
Now I’ve got this new feeling … it’s hard to describe … hope?