Today, Tito’s Tacos posted on Twitter and Facebook that they will be open during this Sunday’s CicLAvia – Culver City meets Venice. Tito’s emphasized that many of their employees take public transit and ride bikes to work every day. CicLAvia tweeted that they’ll be helping Tito’s out with bike and car parking that day.
This put to bed a surprisingly escalating controversy. It is perhaps not much as far as controversies go, but Tito’s had kicked a hornets’ nest by publishing a strongly-worded anti-CicLAvia piece at Culver City news outlet The Front Page. Tito’s owner Lynne Davidson stated, in part:
… immediately cancel the CicLAvia event or, at a bare minimum, that the streets surrounding Tito’s Tacos [not be] closed to through-traffic on Aug. 9, which traditionally is one the biggest days of the year for us.
If this ill-conceived event happens, Tito’s Tacos plans to file a claim under the Government Code against the City of Culver City and CicLAvia to recoup all damages the event causes to Tito’s Tacos.
The Front Page also published a response quoting extensively from City Councilman Jim Clarke in defense of CicLAvia. The discussion quickly degenerated into a volley of comments like, “Their tacos suck anyway.”
I first saw the controversy mentioned at Biking in L.A. The Militant Angeleno playfully referenced an earlier incident where a driver had crashed into Tito’s, temporarily shutting it down, “Rest assured that unlike your car-oriented customers, we won’t be crashing into your wall.”
Further articles ran in LAist and the L.A. Weekly. The controversy even reached national livability circles in the form of an article published this afternoon at The Atlantic‘s CityLab declaring Tito’s to be “on the wrong side of history.”
As one of the people who went door-to-door notifying businesses about CicLAvia from 2010 through 2012, I have to say that Tito’s response is just not that out of the ordinary. Especially given that this is the first time a CicLAvia event will take place on their street. Business owners are busy running their businesses. Many have never heard of CicLAvia and imagine it to be a bunch of number-bibbed spandex-clad outsiders racing past their establishment.
In fact, before CicLAvia even took place in Los Angeles, we heard stories about San Francisco’s ciclovía, called Sunday Streets, facing hostile opposition the first time it rolled through the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area. Merchants there threatened to sue to block the event from taking place. Sunday Streets took place. Business was good. The next year, the area’s merchants’ association sponsored Sunday Streets.
CicLAvia is so radically different from what people expect that it’s just really difficult to get it until you actually experience one.
I want to encourage cyclists not to hate on Tito’s. They’re a lot like all the other businesses we support. My daughter and I will probably stop there for tacos this Sunday. The last time I was there was in 2011, when the city of L.A. striped bike lanes on Washington Place. And the tacos didn’t suck.
Maybe next year Tito’s will be sponsoring CicLAvia’s return.