CicLAvia : 100,000 Cyclists, 0 Incidents, Millions of Stories

The MidDay Ridazz take over 7th Street
The MidDay Ridazz take over 7th Street. 97 Pictures of the day at the ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/29300710@N08/sets/72157625012055213/##Streetsblog Flickr pool.##

(This is part one of our coverage of yesterday’s groundbreaking Open Street Festival.  Hopefully later today we’ll have up a Streetfilm.  Tomorrow we’ll review the reviews of CicLAvia. – DN.)

There’s many ways to try and talk about yesterday’s CicLAvia.  One way is to look at the numbers, another to look at the people, and another to look at the stories.

The numbers are impressive.  KABC News says that there were 50,000 people riding the streets of Los Angeles along a 7.5 mile stretch of streets that were open to public use, but closed to automobiles.  The Los Angeles Times puts that number closer to 100,00 people.

Anecdotally, the Coke Truck ran out of free servings after 50,000 drinks.  CicLAvia organizers estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 people took part with the number “closer to 100,000.”

That’s a lot of people for a 7.5 mile stretch of the city.  But here’s the thing.  Their numbers are wrong.  All of them.

I’m not sure how you can count the number of people along the route that walk outside and take a walk for a couple of blocks without having to compete with cars.  How do you count the kids playing ball in the street that scurried out of the way when the bikes rolled past?  Yesterday was about a lot more than just counting the bikes that rolled past.  CicLAvia touched hundreds of thousands of people, even if it were just that they heard laughing on their streets instead of cars honking their horns.

10 11 10 crate

But here’s another number that’s even more impressive.  0.  That’s the number of “major incidents” reported along the route.  That number includes interactions between the different mode users: bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, rollerbladers, that guy on the surfboard thing with wheels.  That number includes the interactions between the attendees of the events and the LAPD.  As for Los Angeles’ finest, it was hard to find a sour face amongst the hundreds of police on the streets.  Even though they were working, they were as caught up in the wonder of the day as everyone else.

But more impressive than the numbers were the stories and the chance to just be out, in the city, surrounded by hordes of happy people. And why were they happy?  Because we were outside, sharing in space and sharing an experience.  And we didn’t have to pay a lot of money to get shoved into an arena or stadium to do it.

I think I saw more of my Streetsblog friends yesterday than I do when we host Streetsblog events.  It seemed everytime we stopped, there were new friends to greet us.  At the feeder ride I got a chance to catch up with Carter Rubin, Kent Strumpell,  Rachel Stevenson and the crew from SM Spokes.  Here we are in East Hollywood and there’s Deborah Murphy from L.A. Walks, “Park Czar” Alfredo Hernandez…oh, and over there is Ryan Snyder and Eric Garcetti…and…..  And it was like this at every stop.

Now on to three favorite stories of mine from yesterday.  Please feel free to add your own in the comments:

“Whose Streets?”

Eric Garcetti at the start of CicLAvia.
Eric Garcetti at the start of CicLAvia.

In 2009’s Art Cycle event, City Council President Eric Garcetti led the crowd in a chant of “Whose streets?  Our streets!”  Yesterday, Garcetti road the entire 7.5 mile CicLAvia route at least once in relative obscurity.  Excepting a stop at the “No on Prop. 23” rally at City Hall, the city’s second most important politician avoided the spotlight.  But a simple exchange between him and some friends spoke a lot more than any on-camera statement could have.

As we were traveling the last leg to Hollenbeck Park, Mom and I passed Garcetti and two friends traveling the other direction.  At first, I didn’t recognize the Council President who had changed into a CicLAvia t-shirt from when I took his picture that morning.  It wasn’t until I head his voice that I looked over.

“This is awesome,” I heard Garcetti say to one of his travel mates as we passed each other in Boyle Heights.  “Unbelievable,” his friend agreed.  No cameras, no crowd.  Just a couple of friends pedaling through East L.A. basking in the wonder of the day.

An Impromptu “Meeting”

Bikeside's Board pedaling right. at me.
A chunk of Bikeside's Board coming towards us at MacArthur Park.

Around two o’clock, I’m standing next to Enci Box at MacArthur Park.  Looking around, I joked that they were one board member short of being able to hold a meeting of the Bike Writer’s Collective.  Stephen Box was in the street talking to Josef Bray-Ali of the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop.  Gary Kavanaugh with SM Spoke was off to the side on a pair of rollerblades.  Bikeside’s Alex Thompson was standing on the grass behind us.  Moments later I thought I saw Mark Peterson roll past.  That’s six of the group’s eleven scribes.  This  group of advocates that brought us the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights come from all parts of the city, and it was kind of amazing to see them all in the same place at the same time.  Especially because it was a coincidence.

Some Standouts in the Bike Parade

And the non-traditional bikes were out in force.  We saw another Flying Pigeon Baby Bike, which made me miss Sammy who was at our Church’s 60th Birthday Party with his mother.  There was also a bike placed inside a miniature car frame, a bike with a “sail” promoting the aforementioned “Bill of Rights” and more recumbent bicycles than you could count.  The site of Road “Too Tall Jamal” Block on a Tall Bike was worth a smile, but the best bike of the day has to go to the Eastside Bike Club.

Screen shot 2010-10-10 at 9.01.00 PM

The amazing “Dia de los Muertos” Ghost Bike served as both eye-catching attraction and grim reminder that even though these are “our streets,” they sadly aren’t safe streets.  Eight cyclists have died in the Southland in the past three weeks, and this rolling “bike float” snaked through L.A.’s streets as a reminder that there’s a lot of work to do.

Finally

But it wasn’t the smiling faces of hundreds of friends and advocates that greeted my Mother and I as we pedaled through the route that I’ll remember for ever, it was the story of a father and a son just out for a ride.  In Downtown Los Angeles we came across a young father walking next to (and occasionally propping up) his young son on a tiny bicycle.

At an intersection, the father was talking to an LAPD officer who asked about their trip.  Apparently the duo had traveled from the Eastside start in Hollenbeck park and had traveled two and a half miles to the intersection of 7th and Figueroa.  “My work is right down there,” said the father gesturing.  “I live right by the park so we traveled my whole commute.”

But what pulled my heartstring was what the father said when the ride continued.  To his son, “I finally get to see you ride your bike.”

In a lot of ways, that moment represented more of what CicLAvia was about than any dodge ball tournament, yoga class, or political rally could.  It was just a father and son, enjoying the day and making a memory on their streets.

Leave your favorite story, from yesterday’s unbelievable awesome festival, in the comments section.  And let’s hope the city listens to the CicLAvia team and brings back more of these festivals in 2011.

  • M
  • Spokker

    After looking at the photos of the event, I must say that I wish I could have been there, but we are tending to our sick pet.

    I’ve had enough of Critical Mass and Midnight RIDAAZZzzzzz and it’s nice to see some normal people riding out there.

  • SAK ATTACK

    MY FAV WAS THIS CHICK WEARING A LAKERS JERSEY AND THE SMALLEST SHORTS YOUVE EVER SEEN! NOT TO MENTION SHE HAD A BIG BEAUTIFUL ASS!! WALKING HER DOG

  • Hey there,

    I rode with you guys from BikeRoWave. Thanks for organizing it. I took a lot of photos on the day, including some from the ride to cicLAvia.

    Here’s the link: http://gallery.me.com/msblucow#100554

  • Kent Strumpell

    HUGE thanks to all the CicLAVia organizers and volunteers who had the vision, passion and perseverance to make this historic event happen. I also want to express my gratitude to Mayor Villaraigosa for his crucial support and all the wonderful folks in the city departments who worked on this.

    What a remarkable experience it was to effortlessly move through the communities along the route on quiet, safe streets filled with fellow travelers hungry for this simple pleasure. I was impressed with how big our streets feel without cars; wow! Makes it clear how much of our precious public space has been commandeered by traffic. The 4th St. bridge was spectacular; hope we can work another bridge or a similar otherwise-hard-to-enjoy spot into future CicLAvias.

    CicLAvia’s Aaron Paley summarized my feelings poignantly when he wrote, “Los Angeles feels a little different today”. Hopefully, CicLAvia’s success will foster new ways of thinking about street design so we can enjoy more of the benefits we experienced Sunday on a daily basis.

  • Vicki

    The peacefulness of the day is what I’ll remember most vividly: all the smiling faces, people watching out for one another, waiting up for others, helping fix a tire and simply enjoying the day with others, many of whom they didn’t know but it didn’t matter. I rode from BikeRoWave with a lovely group of riders of all ages, including a couple who had never before biked east of the 405 freeway. I loved seeing people walking, on rollerblades, playing tennis, dancing, hula hooping, and enjoying a game of dodgeball. I wish every day could be like Sunday. We now know how it feels so we can recreate it again and again.

    A special thank you to the organizers and also to all the officers who were out in the heat with their dark uniforms but SMILING and friendly as can be. You made it a great day!

  • My only complaint was about how much garbage was in the street, and the complete lack of garbage cans in the area.

  • minibikebar

    Totally Awesome Day….we definitely need more in Los Angeles. Positive change is happening in LA! Now, go out ride your bike and take the streets back from the car culture.

  • The most beautiful day I’ve spent in Los Angeles! But you’re right, more stores should have been opened. Missed opportunities for some merchants…but Paradise Regained for everyone else!

    My little blurb with some pix:

    CicLAiva: a First for Los Angeles

  • Annette Fasteau

    Ciclavia: a celebration of biking and the wonderful diverse, fun people of L.A.!
    Thanks for the best party!! Loved playing tennis infront of City Hall.
    To the band that got arrested for performing on the 101 freeway this week: Come out to the next Ciclavia instead!

  • Brian B. Decker

    Los Angeles is ideally suited for bicycle use EVERY DAY. Through the many years I have commuted on my bicycle I’ve noticed many streets that are flat and virtually empty-and ironically serene compared to the traffic choked nightmares a mere block away. Ciclavia was great and I was elated to be part of it, and we all saw how it could be having streets blocked to car traffic in LA. Now, we as a community need to aim high and lobby to have certain (and many) streets blocked from through traffic, or otherwise outfitted to accommodate bikes for DAILY use. This needs to become common sense and grow out of being radical.

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