CicLAvia Successfully Rides Again

An Obama sighting at CicLAvia. (photo: sahra)

They don’t look like they’re on their way to church, I thought as I eyed up the handful of serious-looking young men lined up outside a corner liquor store.

I was headed to Watts to meet up with the feeder ride led by the East Side Riders. But I was running a little behind because I had been stopping people I spotted on bikes to talk to them about CicLAvia.

Prior to the event in April, there had been a lot of buzz on the airwaves about it and flyers seemed to be everywhere. This time around, the build-up seems to have been a little lower-key, and I hadn’t seen much in the way of outreach around South L.A.

I decided to try to recruit to the young men.

“Do you all know about CicLAvia?” I asked.

Arms crossed, they eyed me warily.

Silence.

“Ciclo who?” one finally asked.

I explained it was a 9-mile long street festival that would be starting soon. It was something to see 100,000 people out on their bikes. Fun, too.

“It starts up at Exposition Park — that’s not too far from here,” I said. “You’ve all got bikes. You should check it out.”

They gave each other the “Hmm-that-sounds-kind-of-cool” eyebrows.

“I have to run,” I said. “I’m late getting to Watts to meet friends. Maybe we’ll see you there…”

“Will everyone else there look like you?” asked one of the guys as he eyed me up.

Well, you did stop at a liquor store at 9 a.m., I said to myself.

“Sure,” I said as I pedaled off. “It will be ladies-on-bikes galore.”

The early bird gets the empty streets. (photo: sahra)

“Ciclo who?” turned out to be a common response from those I stopped as I rode south.

Most surprising was that many of those unaware of the event lived just on the other side of the 110 Freeway from the South Hub. Two teens on bikes out for a ride on Hill and 36th Pl. had never heard of CicLAvia. A father on his way to Exposition Park with his young son had also not heard about the event.

“We usually go to Exposition Park so he can ride around safely in the parking lots,” he said pointing at his helmeted son. “This event sounds interesting. Thanks for telling us.”

Dog parade at the South L.A. Hub. (photo: sahra)

All that stopping and evangelizing meant that I managed to miss the feeder ride. I got to about 92nd and Central before I got the text from a friend that they were already up on 43rd.

Oops.

I finally caught up with a few of them in the middle of the street at the South Hub just as a dog parade made its way across Figueroa.

They had staked out a spot in the middle of the street because Richard Aguayo, a BMXer, was teaching the East Side Riders’ Fred Buggs Jr. how to do tricks. The two had met at the last CicLAvia South East Ride, and Fred had watched Richard and his friends playing around on their BMX bikes after the ride.

It made Richard proud to see that he had inspired someone take up something new and that he could help teach him new skills, he said. Growing up in Huntington Park, he hadn’t seen people like him out on BMX bikes. Or on any bike, for that matter. There was nowhere for kids to ride or learn in his neighborhood. And the only people he ever saw on TV riding BMX bikes were white. That experience is part of his motivation for being such a regular presence at the CicLAvia South East events — he’d like to see more facilities available for kids in that area.

The Youth Action Council helped L.A. Commons create a backdrop for a photo booth at the South L.A. Hub (photo: sahra)

The South L.A. Hub turned out to be the huggiest part of my day.

I picked up maps from (and hugged) the folks behind RideSouthLA and plotted strategies with them and the East Side Riders for upcoming rides (Nov. 4th and 11th), hugged Trina Greene from BHC SLA for her contribution to organizing the hub’s activities, got informed about Cornerstone Theater Company‘s upcoming production of Seed, admired the new designs of the girls’ Sisterhood shirts (and hugged) Los Ryderz, and hugged the heck out of one of the Ryderz that had recently been hospitalized with a heart condition but who I was thrilled to see had managed to make the ride up from Watts anyways.

Drum serenades rolling north along Figueroa Ave. (photo: sahra)

Refreshed by so many hugs so early in the morning, rolling out and heading north felt even more fantastic.

The long, wide stretch of S. Figueroa meant that there was plenty of room to roll at your own pace and keep track of your party.

Downtown was another story entirely.

Tall bikes ride high through downtown. (photo: sahra)

Fun as it is to see so many folks on bikes and to be squeezed through corridors of high rises, it can prove to be a little too much for some.

I lost track of Stalin Medina, owner of the Watts Cyclery. We had been talking about our plans for the co-op at his shop. But I stopped to take a couple of photos, and that was the last I saw of him until Boyle Heights.

He had felt claustrophobic, he said, and preferred to make his way to the Fourth St. bridge via side streets.

Their banner was much better than police crime scene tape. (photo: sahra)

I knew where he was coming from.

At a few places downtown, it had taken me three or four cycles of red lights to make it through an intersection. Most people took the delays in stride. But being packed into a street like sardines on wheels can be a little overwhelming, especially if you have small children, are pulling a pet along, are new to riding, or simply don’t do well in crowds.

So, when Stalin and I headed for Macarthur Park, we took a detour through the Second Street tunnel and met up again with the route on 7th St., just west of downtown. It made for a much more pleasant (and speedier) ride over. But, I’ll admit, I felt a little like I had cheated somehow. Like a marathoner that takes a shortcut during the race and jumps out of the bushes ahead of everyone else at the finish line.

A young cyclist takes a break inside the California African American Museum. (photo: sahra)

Besides the fact that CicLAvia brings out such a diverse mix of Angelenos, the thing I enjoyed seeing most was how many kids and families were out riding.

Stalin agreed, saying he felt good knowing that they would grow up thinking events like CicLAvia were normal, and would continue to demand more of them.

In some cases, however, the event was a little too exciting for kids.

At a bathroom pit stop near Mariachi Plaza, I asked a woman fanning herself vigorously in the heat why she had one bike piled on top of another. It was a four-year old boy’s bike she said, pointing to her neighbor’s child. He had managed to grab his bike and tag along behind older friends, apparently without letting his mother know. He unfortunately didn’t make it very far before getting tuckered out. His friends, kids themselves, didn’t notice and left him behind in the street. The woman’s daughter had recognized him, so they piled his bike on hers and were walking him back home.

Las Cafeteras inspire the audience to dance with La Bamba Rebelde. (photo: sahra)

We closed the day out back at the South Hub, enjoying the sounds of Sista Neish and Las Cafeteras. They played well beyond the official end of CicLAvia, providing a great soundtrack for those tearing down tents after working hard to make the event a success for all of us who showed up to enjoy it.

Thanks to all the volunteers, community organizers, traffic enforcers, police, performers, and clean-up crews that put in long hours to make the day safe and fun for all 100,000 of us (or however many of us there were).

Members of the L.A. Conservation Corps (and one member's niece and nephew) who had been working to keep the South Hub clean since 11 a.m.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ndvick

    Was a great day! I didn’t ride this time but got to spend a nice day with my daughter at Expo Park.

  • ES Riders

    Good piece

  • I’m not surprised many in South LA didnt know about it.  Many times these events are marketed through online english media…not so great at reaching huge segments of the population.

    Still, even without the outreach, the event looks packed (I wish I could have attended). In the few, they may want less car crossing points downtown because that does look like a huge bottleneck for riding. I think figuera to macarthur park was less crowded, but naturally people want to explore downtown.

  • PC

    Downtown was a mess. Too many car crossings too close together, and the traffic cops at every single one seemed to be insisting on following the normal short light cycles. So each time a light turned green, by the time the people up front got their shit together and actually began physically moving forward, it was almost time for the light to turn red again. Unsurprisingly, when this was done every few blocks right in the part of town that everybody had to pass through to get from one leg of the event to another, the result was a clusterfuck.

    Lesson: do not subject extremely large numbers of largely inexperienced cyclists and pedestrians to normal traffic light cycles at closely spaced intersections and expect traffic of any kind to move efficiently. Either adjust the light cycles; the strictness of the traffic officers’ adherence to those cycles; the route; or your expectations.

  • PC

    …other than that it was cool, though. I’m just saying, is all.

  • Ubrayj02

    Au contraire – I believe that the streets in downtown were incredibly efficient.

    Those streets were filled with twice or three times as many people as could possibly fit through in cars and moved through faster than any automobile traffic could have moved those numbers.

    Spring St. deserves the attention, the stop and start, the gawking at people moving on two, three, four, or eight wheels; the outfits; the pets. This is what LA looks like, and I would happily sit through a traffic jam like that on my way to work.

  • I agree with Ubrayj02 — it seemed rather efficient to me. Absolutely packed, moreso than in the past, at intersections, but at nearly every one the traffic cops were letting bikes go through for two light cycles to clear the crowd, then letting cars go for one.

  • LAofAnaheim

    The problem on 7th street was that the bicyclists and pedestrians were pushed to a single lane on the right. The traffic control officers and volunteers kept the left lane blocked off. They could have easily opened up the left lane so that 2 lanes of bikes and people could roll through instead of squeezing into the right lane. That was the problem.

  • Ubrayj02

    This reminds me of a Yogi Berra quote: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

  • MarkB

    Subjectively, many riders never seem to leave the Downtown core. The legs could have benefitted from extra marketing Downtown. Maybe big wayfinding signs on Spring and/or 7th streets advertising “Discover Figueroa/Exposition Park this way” or “Discover Soto/Mariachi Plaza this way.” 

  • PC

    I suspect it just looked like people were not leaving the downtown core, partly because of the congestion and partly because of the hub-and-spoke nature of the route.

  • sahra

     Funny you say that… the outlying areas of the route struck me as quite empty at times. I was rather surprised to see how little was going on at Macarthur Park this year–it had been such a hub of activity before. I’ll admit I appreciated having the open space to ride, but I couldn’t figure out if it was the wider streets (like Fig) that spread people out or if there were fewer people. Maybe that’s why downtown seemed more crammed…those businesses seemed more prepared to embrace cyclists. The Fig. arm, while lovely for its openness, was all auto-sales shops and USC housing. So it wasn’t quite as welcoming. And I’ll agree that some sign-posting might be good…I heard a lot of people asking directions at the roundabout on Fig or coming back into downtown from BH.

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