An Open Letter to

Kids, dogs, everyone came to CicLAvia!
Kids aplenty came to CicLAvia
Last Sunday’s CicLAvia was once again a delightful and exhilarating event, with happy humans reveling in the chance to enjoy their streets and their free of the fumes, noise, threat, and mindless hurry of the car traffic that generally dominates the discourse on our roads and boulevards.

People who on other days might be trapped in their bucket seats, in thrall to the windshield view of the bumper in front of them, sequestered from any semblance of contact with the open air, life on the sidewalks, or their fellow road users, were able to move freely in their own bodies, riding bikes or strolling or skating along, while smiling and chatting with what were now their temporary neighbors.

And learning how unfamiliar they have been with roads they thought they knew. Over and over again I heard in person or read on blogs and comments how the rich detail of downtown Los Angeles came as a surprise to those who normally barrel through in a catatonic hurry, ensconced in real metal shells and the psychological insulation of reflexive rushing through traffic that simply does not let you rush.

It was a truly liberating and fundamentally happy experience, once again….at least for grown-ups.

For the many children who came along, it may have been a little different.

A good friend of mine who is raising two small daughters brought one of them to CicLAvia, and he pointed out that little children may not get the same pure joy we do from merely being freed from the dull brutality of cars, which they don’t spend so much time in anyway. CicLAvia’s distances are long to little legs, and many of the stops–the bars, the clever restaurants, even the fierce dodgeball games–are not amusing, or sometimes even permitted, to our smaller children.

What my friend suggests, and wanted me to pass on, is that CicLAvia needs more “happy” events–for the kids themselves, and a few for grownups too, that go beyond the ride itself, the bars, the promotional kiosks, and the food trucks at Hel-Mel.

So let me suggest to a few things, in the spirit of my friend Hooshmand’s suggestion, that would make CicLAvia even more inclusive than it is right now–which is already more inclusive than the everyday condition of our streets.

1) A short overlay route for kids, a “KidLAvia,” if you will, running perhaps from 7th and Fig to MacArthur Park (both served by Red Line stations), and dotted with kid-friendly activities at frequent intervals. A merry-go-round, a pony ride, a sandbox, a portable jungle gym, puppet shows, kid-oriented music, whatever. The city is rich in resources for children, so let’s invite more kid-friendly fun & games to CicLAvia and publicize them along with the main event itself.

2) More “happy” stops for grownups too: Hooshie suggests more street musicians–in LA this ought to be easy to arrange!–more concert stages, more street food. The present route passes through areas rich in food cart vendors, and more could come. Food trucks aren’t the be-all and end-all of street food, and the city has a long tradition of paleteros, eloteros, streetside hot dog and tamale vendors, sidewalk barbecue stands, and much much more, that long predates the fawning articles in glossy food rags. Many of these food carts have always been human-powered, and there is also a small number of bicycle- and tricycle-borne food purveyors in the city. Maybe arrange an amnesty with the LAPD to look the other way for just one day for those whose paperwork may be informal or nonexistent….

3) More informal street events, such as the roadside swing lessons we encountered in a recent San Francisco street opening, which you can see at The New Colonist.

CicLAvia is one of the best things to happen to Los Angeles in decades…but we can make it even better! And help the next generation think even happier thoughts about cycling than they already do.

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  1. Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    We’re glad that you enjoyed CicLAvia and that you have suggestions on making it better.

    Regarding a more kid-specific area at CicLAvia: I agree with the overall goal – make CicLAvia even more kid-friendly… but I suspect that focusing kids in one stretch could have unintended consequences. Yesterday kids were spread throughout the route, making the route more fun and more chill. If kids are in mainly in one area, then the rest of the route risks becoming less kid-friendly. I could be misguided, but I’ve been pretty stubborn about insisting that the whole route is for everyone… no separation, no segregation.

    And regarding vendors, well it’s not something we can make official, but what makes you think there wasn’t any look-the-other way going on out there yesterday?

    Joe Linton
    Organizer, CicLAvia

  2. Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I hope there was some “looking the other way,” and I’m glad to hear there may have been.

    As to the “KidLAvia,” I am, as I said, passing on observations and requests from a new participant to CicLAvia, who took his young daughter. There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t spread out along the route (and which he suggested should be) such as food and music. But a kid zone would add festivity and social utility to a section of the route that already concentrates a number of other CicLAvia features.

    Listen, I loved loved loved it. But my son’s twenty-five, and rode it on his own (well, with fifteen friends). The suggestion came from an “interested but concerned” and fairly new occasional utility cyclist and grew out of his own observations and comments his kid made. And these are the people CicLAvia can mean the most to.

    You and I are already out there on the streets, and have been for years. We can’t see it the same way.

  3. Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, compared with all the other CicLAvia’s I have attended, this was the absolutely BEST for kids to ride in! I saw hordes of mommies, daddies, and their babies riding by on bikes – traffic flowing at a mellow pace, and a focus on jawboning, eating, and playing like never before. Perhaps this is because we stuck to the Placita Olvera/South LA portions of the route (which were not as peopled as other parts of the route).

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