Planning Begins For A Westside CicLAvia

CicLAvia Westside WorkshopThis Tuesday, CicLAvia hosted a workshop in Santa Monica at the Civic Center led by Aaron Paley to discuss a possible Westside route for the event. Paley explained that next year the organization is looking to expand the number of CicLAvia events, and feature new areas of the Los Angeles region. The Westside is one of several new locales under consideration such as Pomona, South L.A. and others.

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It’s great to hear the words CicLAvia and Santa Monica together after the fizzling of a prior organizing effort that never quite got off the ground. Back in 2010, a group led by Richard McKinnon (presently on the Santa Monica planning commission and who has applied to run for city council) had aspirations for the 10-10-10 date for a Santa Monica ciclovia event (back before CicLAvia settled on that date). I participated in a few of those meetings, but the momentum then was not enough to overcome the layers of Santa Monica bureaucracy that didn’t know what to make of such an event that was neither a parade nor a race.

Having a ciclovia event come to town under the CicLAvia banner, and with a built-in team with a proven track record and a growing brand awareness in the LA region, will in likely make a bigger splash than something local advocates might have been able to pull off on their own. So perhaps it was all for the best, and I would hope some of the roadblocks before will be reconsidered now that CicLAvia has proven to be wildly successful, and one of the most populated Open Streets events in the country despite not being the largest in length.

The first thing the CicLavia team did for the start of the workshop was have everyone break apart the regimented rows of chairs and form a circle to foster a more intimate discussion. Aaron Paley interjected that rearranging the chairs was an empowering reclamation of space, much as CicLAvia is. I hadn’t really interacted with Paley much previously, but I immediately liked the way things got started.

CicLAvia Westside Workshop

Aaron Paley discussing route options for a Westside CicLAvia.

Before opening the discussion up for details, Paley outlined some of the general goals of CicLAvia as an event, which is a lot more than just riding bikes, it’s about the experience on foot and many other activities as well. Given the Westside cultural background, I hope we see more skating at this one. Paley elaborated on some of the specific criteria that goes into route selection, as well as stating up front that working through the back and forth permitting process is guaranteed to result in route changes from anything initially imagined.

A map was presented with some general route suggestions and a hard anchor point. At the Eastern end would be the Metro Expo Line Culver City station, and the route would connect to points west and near the beach from there. Input was solicited from the small crowd made up of familiar faces of advocates, new but enthusiastic CicLAvia fans, city staff and a scattering of other local interests. Some initially proposed legs were shot down (such as Santa Monica Airport) and new suggestions were drawn onto the map.

Unurban Cafe

Unurban Cafe at Pico Blvd. & Urban Ave., a local hang out spot & eclectic hub of visual & preforming art.

I would prefer to see the commercial district of Pico Boulevard included. It meets some of the desired criteria such as being a commercial corridor with a mix of businesses and activities. Despite a lot of largely pedestrian oriented businesses, most of which are unmarred by front parking lots, Pico is a very vehicle traffic dominated boulevard that is not ideal for bicycling (an understatement), and features mostly narrow sidewalks. So I felt compared to other corridors being considered in Santa Monica, Pico would experience one of the greatest transformations of space to be part of a CicLAvia.

However the limited distance of about 10-12 miles that CicLAvia has been able to manage means that if the route swings toward Pico, an alternative further south tying in Venice Beach might not fit in. Those in Venice, and quite a lot of folks in the region would love to see Abbott Kinney Boulevard featured. As the night came toward a close the consensus seemed to narrow to roughly two options, a route further north featuring more of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and a further south option featuring more of Culver City and Venice Beach.

CicLavia will announce some details soon regarding exploratory rides to check out the on ground perspective of these different options. If all goes well, budgets are secured, and the new layers of paperwork for planning across 3 different city governments are ironed out, the tentative date that we might be cruising a Westside CicLAvia could be May or July 2013. Exciting times!

Be sure to follow CicLAvia at their website, twitter or facebook pages for future updates or to find out how you can get involved.