Your Friday Video of Zen: DTLA Street Futures (Featuring CicLAvia)

 

What will the future streets of Los Angeles look like? And what sorts of innovations, interventions, infrastructure, interconnections, and events will help us get there? And can we get there in a way that is sustainable, grounded in community experiences, and does not displace residents of communities that have experienced historical disinvestment?

Digital artist, filmmaker, and Ph.D. candidate at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Karl Baumann raises many of these questions using lovely drone footage of CicLAvia: Heart of L.A. and the voices of a handful of younger planners and advocates who ponder a future where “experience [is] driven by two wheels rather than four” and “design [is] driven by real issues of sustainability, livability, and affordability.”

“With the passing of LA’s Mobility Plan 2035,” Baumann believes, “we’re seeing the bright glimpses of a new paradigm shift for the city. The future of LA will be about local placemaking, pedestrian culture, and sustainability. The emphasis on private cars speeding from one neighborhood to another will become a thing of the past. It’ll become a fading dream of an old utopian impulse, laid out by GM’s ‘Futurama’ exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair.”

Any paradigm shift, he acknowledges, always comes with a backlash. And L.A.’s experience has been no different. Behind Fix the City’s lawsuit and bizarre characterization of bike- and transit-dependent folks as seeking to “steal” lanes from beleaguered drivers and the concerns of more moderate opponents who fear transit will never be able to meet their needs is a common desire to defend and only lightly amend the known evil, Baumann says, rather than “rally around a not-yet-built imagined infrastructure.”

Events like CicLAvia, Baumann argues, give us a common point of reference from which to begin to rethink how our city should be designed. Experiencing safe, car-free streets firsthand, he says, can help skeptics imagine a more bike-centric future. Rubbing shoulders with the diverse mix of Angelenos seen at CicLAvia can also help to dispel the myth that cycling is the purview of well-to-do hipsters. And seeing the extent to which cyclists at open streets events outnumber those commuting on a daily basis might make it easier for skeptics to understand the role protective bike infrastructure can play in emboldening those who are currently too afraid to cycle L.A.’s mean streets.

The video focuses on Downtown, Baumann says, because it has become a vital test lab and potential crystal ball for the redesigning of the city. And also because, he adds, the development there also hints at the “dark side of our bright future.”

Members of the L.A. Real Rydaz and World Riders post up on MLK Blvd. during CicLAvia in South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Members of the L.A. Real Rydaz and World Riders post up on MLK Blvd. during CicLAvia in South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“With increasing livability,” he says, “comes displacement and a lack of affordability.”

Asking who benefits from infrastructure and how plans can be modified to be inclusive of existing residents and their visions of community may be important as we move forward, he says.

“These will be the most challenging questions moving forward,” he concludes.

While neither he nor the advocates featured in the video have answers to those questions, Baumann hopes that raising them in the video will add to the ongoing conversations about what a more people-centric future city might look like.

If videographer Chidi Onyejuruwa’s cool drone footage of people riding through downtown offers any clues, that future looks like it could be really fun and harmonious.

  • Gerhard W. Mayer

    Brilliant!

  • Chewie

    It is kind of a dilemma that if you make things “better” people could get displaced as more people are attracted to an area and bid up rents. Yet, if you don’t make things “better” don’t you just perpetuate long-standing patterns of underinvestment in certain communities? I think it speaks to the need for a comprehensive strategy for affordable rental housing involving more supply and dedicated affordable units; but that takes money and political will, two ingredients that are usually in short supply.

  • Mike

    I think that’s a valuable distinction though, do we improve or perpetuate mediocrity? Both have their downsides but measures can be taken to mitigate the negative effects of improvement, the same can’t be said about the complacent approach…

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Changes at CicLAvia: New Route, New Dates

|
Change is in the air for CicLAvia, the gigantic car-free party that has changed the way Angelenos think about their streets.  First, the date for this October’s CicLAvia V has been moved forward from the original date of October 14 to October 7.  With the city planning to bring a space ship through the streets […]

CicLAvia Is Right Around the Corner, But You Can Get Involved Today

|
L.A. Streetsblog is pretty excited about Los Angeles’ fourth CicLAvia coming up in just under three weeks. On Sunday April 15th 2012, about 100,000 Angelenos will experience what L.A. streets can be when we just remove a few pesky automobiles. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple years, watch these earlier Streetfilms to get a sense […]

Advocates Gather in Leimert Park to Hear about CicLAvia Route through South L.A. Planned for December

|
South L.A. residents and advocates gathered at the KAOS Network in Leimert Park last night to learn more about CicLAvia and how the 6-mile route planned through the area on December 7th, 2014, would affect the community. Staff from CicLAvia gave presentations explaining “ciclovias” and describing how the car-free, open streets events had first originated in […]