Dream Come True

CicLAvia came and went last Sunday, and was busier and happier than ever, with crowd certainly exceeding the default value of “over 100,000 Angelenos.” Every age, from babies to ancients, every racial and ethnic group that you find in LA, men and women, rich and poor, mingled happily on LA acreage liberated from the bullies of the boulevards and reserved for…everyone! Human beings, not encased and isolated in layers of steel, but free and moving under their own power, visible to each other, moving at a pace that let them acknowledge each other’s humanity and, not at all incidentally, see—often for the first time, really see—the city they live in.

It was an illustration of not only the pleasure but the efficiency of cycling. It’s become a CicLAvia cliché to say, first, that “I made the distance just as fast as I do in my car in traffic!,” and then, “I’ve driven through here a thousand times and never really saw it before.”

But more than that, CicLAvia showed just how many people the streets of LA can accommodate when you don’t have to burden each one with a car. Look at the little video I shot, below, and compare the bike traffic passing by in the foreground with the car traffic in the distance…knowing that those cars are carrying one or at most two persons each.

No wonder the restaurants and cafés were so crowded!

CicLAvia also showed the power of transit. The new Expo Line brought in many more riders from the Westside (and the new north/south alignment of the CicLAvia route itself gave Southsiders easier access as well); and the Red, Purple, Blue, and Gold line stops regularly delivered phalanxes of smiling faces accompanied by bikes of every description. I myself took the Expo Line part of the way over, and the Purple Line homeward; and it was delightful to chat up fellow riders on the trains and overhear other conversations among people who might never have met or spoken otherwise.

Bikes and transit are proving to be a powerful combination worldwide, and one thing at least that Metro has done right is to take out a few seats on each train to make room for more bikes (as well as wheelchairs, strollers, and bulky luggage).

The only problem with CicLAvia is that it doesn’t happen often enough! In Bogotá, where ciclovías originated, they take place every week, and liberate 75 miles of roads!

But CicLAvia is beloved enough now—thanks to you, fellow Angelenos, visitors, bike riders!—that it’s becoming political capital. Just the other day, Eric Garcetti, running to replace the man my wife calls “Mayor Deep V,” promised in a Tweet to put on CicLAvia every month if he wins the election. He may even mean it, but the important thing is, that CicLAvia—and by extension cycling itself—really matters now.

It’s not just a dream anymore.

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