Urban Velo

CicLAvia — Los Angeles’s Open Streets Event

stoopidtall_halbergman An estimated 150,000 people came out the first CicLAvia of the year, on April 21, to enjoy the extended route, which spanned 15 miles from downtown L.A. to Venice. Advisory notices across town helped to build up anticipation in the days preceding the event, promising the increasingly coveted street closures. With a 150 percent increase in attendance, many people were there to experience the open streets event for the first time. While many chose to enjoy to route by foot, skateboard and on rollerskates, bicycles were still the preferred mode of exploring the route; bike shops throughout the city saw a rush of people who wanted to fix up the rusty, dusty bikes they hadn’t touched in years in preparation for the weekend.

“It was a very ambitious route, fifty percent larger than any route we’ve ever done” said Chris Barnes, who is part of the CicLAvia’s team of organizers. “We had a lot more people than we’d anticipated. It seemed like there were a lot more families, a lot more kids.”

On hand to kick off the fun was outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was greeted at Olvera Street—the eastern edge of the route—by hundreds of eager Angelenos, anxious to play in the streets, without the traffic. Citing an accelerated pace of bicycle and public transportation infrastructure development in Los Angeles, Villaraigosa expressed his vision to create a new civic identity.

“Let’s make sure L.A.’s as famous for it’s bikes as it is for its addiction to the single-passenger automobile,” he said. “Because the bike network is growing so fast and Ciclavia is becoming so popular, we’re also making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Our public transit system is finally beginning to connect the dots.

“L.A. is quite literally becoming a car-free destination,” he declared before announcing the launch of a car-free initiative from the board of tourism. The initiative entails more than a dozen car-free itineraries for exploring the city, with a broad range of themes from film landmarks, sites with presidential connections, architecture, beaches, LGBT landmarks, and even a “Geek’s Guide to LA,” all available at discoverlosangeles.com/carfreela.  

Villaraigosa said that he hopes CicLAvia grows to happen 12 times a year, with varying routes that explore different parts of the city each month.

“I’m really excited that he wants to make it a more permanent change,” said Barnes.

Since beginning in 2010, CicLAvia has drawn not only L.A. residents, but visitors from neighboring counties and states as well. Shattering the myth that a car is needed to get around L.A. has inspired city officials and community organizers throughout the southwest to establish their own open streets events.

“More than a dozen cities have contacted us,” Villaraigosa said. One of the cities modelling their own events after CicLAvia is San Diego, which will host its first CicloSDias on August 11.

The day brought out a diverse mix of people and organizations to the 15-mile block party, including Daniel Busby’s 8-person banquet table, “A Moveable Feast,” and dozens of freakbikes, including Richie Trimble on his 14.5-foot “StoopidTall,” which turned out to the be the star of the day’s event. Dubbed the “King of CicLAvia” by local media, Trimble and his (stoopid) tall bike had onlookers along the route gasping and smiling as he rode by, flanked by a protective circle of Angelopes helping him navigate his way through the crowded streets.

Because the event requires no registration or admission fee, it is difficult to gauge exactly how many people participated; perhaps the best evidence of growth was that parts of the route were still heavily congested, despite the five added miles. With 30 crossing points to allow for intersecting car traffic, parts of the route came to a standstill at times.

“One thing that I’ve been trying to ask for is modifying the signals so that the cyclists get two cycles,” said Barnes. “It seems like it would be a lot more effective in keeping everyone together.”

Despite the congestion, there was plenty to do and friends to be found the whole way across town–reminding us all to just take the day to enjoy the sun and good company. Two more CicLAvia events are planned for 2013. The next will take a historic route down “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” on June 23 and highlight the cities varied architecture as part of the Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles art initiative.

See more excellent images of Richie’s Stoopidtall bike at Hal Bergman’s photo site.

About Krista Carlson

A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.

View all posts by Krista Carlson →

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