For months, a hard-core group of volunteers have been working on a shoe-string budget to bring a series of car-free festivals to Los Angeles based on the weekly Ciclovias of Bogota, Colombia. Thanks to a series of high profile news stories in the Times and ABC News highlighting the continued work of the CicLAvia volunteers, the Mayor’s office is saying we could see a series of these car free parties starting in the Spring of 2010.
For the uninitiated, the city of Bogota put on the first Ciclovia decades ago by closing several of its main streets to cars and opening them to pedestrians and cyclists on Sundays. Over the years, a culture developed around these gigantic street parties. Citizens literally pack the streets taking their bikes, joining group exercises and dances or just taking a walk free from the interference of the automobile. To get an idea of the scope, power and joy of Ciclovia, check out this iconic Streetfilm from December of 2007.
New York, Portland and San Francisco have all started programs to similar to Ciclovia in recent years. Like Ciclovia their events run on Sundays. Unlike Ciclovia, their events are only on certain Sundays in the summer. Activists in these cities credit their Ciclovia-styled events have encouraged more people to try urban cycling and walking because they could "get their feet wet" in a comfortable, car-free environment.
Los Angeles is expecting to move incrementally on our CicLAvia, bringing a series of small events to communities before going larger in future years. The first street to see a CicLAvia will probably be a two-mile stretch of road in Boyle Heights, where a grant from the California Foundation would help pay for the pilot Ciclovia. While the Mayor’s office has expressed interest in the project, it hasn’t yet committed to a date, route, or time. However, cyclists and pedestrians shouldn’t be discouraged by the cautious approach at City Hall. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets program kicked off this year with a series of two-hour closures that were so popular that Mayor Newsom already announced the extension and expansion of the program for 2010.
So now the clock is ticking towards the Spring of 2010. Will Los Angeles finally realize that you don’t need a Lakers Championship or dead celebrity or ethnic festival to hold a car-free party? In my opinion, just living in the land of eternal sunshine is reason enough.