Once you figure out how to pronounce it, CicLAvia not only sounds pretty rad, it is pretty rad. A little background: ciclovías originated in Bogota, Colombia as a very civilized protest against the congestion and resulting pollution. It gave residents a little room to breathe, and a little room to roam. A continent away, Stephen Villavaso, Jenn Su, Max Podemski, Jonathan Parfrey, Aaron Paley, Adonia Lugo, Joe Linton, Daisy Lin, Sandra Hamlat, Bobby Gadda, Richard France, Colleen Corcoran, and Amanda Bromberg got together to mash ciclovías with LA. Mayor Tony was all over it. Hence, CicLAvia. In their own words:
CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun.
The city’s first CicLAvia event was on 10/10/10. It stretched 7.5 miles, from Koreatown, through Downtown, Little Tokyo, MacArthur Park, and to the southern cusp of Los Feliz. There were no cars, only bikes and pedestrians. There was a dodgeball game near 7th and Union. A (straight) couple married. There was yoga in the now open road. Businesses along the route were packed to the gills, proving that foot traffic is better for business than can’t-find-a-place-to-park traffic. It was like Park Day times one million. It was wonderful. Will Campbell showed you exactly how wonderful it was:
Before this event, you only saw the streets of LA this empty if you were in the middle of a well-organized protest march, with proper peaceful assembly permits and what not. Happily, ten-ten-ten won’t be the last time you’ll see this emptiness: with the organizers’ lead, and a broad base of support, the next CicLAvia will be Sunday, April 10, 2011. Wait, there’s more awesome news: the organizers hope, and are planning, for at least two more events: one in July or August, and another in September or October. As if this weren’t enough, they want to expand CicLAvia beyond the original 7.5 mile route: maybe into South LA. Maybe into Chinatown. Maybe a version of CicLAvia in the Westside. The latter goal fulfilled would be a real coup: not only is it one of the most frustratingly congested parts of LA, it also can be the one of most committed to its four wheel drives.
I love my car. But really, I would like to use my car sometimes as opposed to most of the time. I don’t think we, as a city, would like to depend on our cars as much as other cities would like to think we want to depend on our cars in order to justify their stereotypes about LA. CicLAvia reminds us that our vehicles do not have to be a way of life – it just has to be a means to one. Between breaking the political willpower against an expanded subway system (seriously, what is that?) and cultivating a real biker culture, LA finally is starting to move the parts slowly towards building a viable public transit system. For taking back the streets and sharing it all with us, and for setting the stage for even more amazing car-free events to come, CicLAvia’s organizers are on our 2010 Nice List. If we could give you a nice roadster with a bow around it, we would.