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CicLAmini Watts – Open Thread

3:45 PM PDT on May 22, 2023

CicLAvia’s Watts CicLAmini – photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Yesterday, Southern California's popular CicLAvia open streets series kicked off the first edition of its new CicLAmini format. CicLAminis are shorter open streets events, targeted more toward walking. The first CicLAmini opened stretches of Central Avenue and 103rd Street in the Watts neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles. The overall event extended about 1.1 mile; most earlier CicLAvias have ranged from around three to eight miles.

Even with the new format, the event felt more similar to past CicLAvias than different; there were plenty of people enjoying themselves in car-free streets. There were walk-only (dismount) activity hubs located at each end, with the 103rd Street hub being a bit bigger than typical hubs. In between the hubs was a long stretch of wide open Central Avenue shared by people on foot, skate, scooter and bike.

There were thousands of people participating, though attendance appeared to be somewhat sparser than at previous CicLAvia events. The new format may have been more successful in bringing out walkers who might have ordinarily done their laps around Ted Watkins Park - folks moving through the event on foot appeared to be a higher percentage than at longer CicLAvia events. As with all CicLAvias, there were lots of families with young children on bike, skates, and scooters.

The expansion of new routes and formats around the city is possible, in part, thanks to the activism of local bike advocates like the East Side Riders' John Jones III, below, who clamored for open streets events in their communities. Jones' work has been essential to growing the profile of the bike community in South L.A., and in Watts, in particular.

Even with plastic post-protected bike lanes, Central Ave. can still be a dangerous speedway, meaning it's not unusual to see some cyclists still opting for to ride on the sidewalk. An open streets event like this, however short the route, allows for a community artery to be experienced in a new way.

As with earlier South L.A. open streets events, low-rider bicyclists showed off their handsomely tricked-out rides
Young cyclist taking the center line on Central Avenue
Drumming performance at 103rd Street CicLAmini hub. The Watts CicLAmini included a lot of music - at the two hubs, as well as along the route.
The Riverside Electric Light Parade made an appearance.
The Metro Art Bus on 103rd Street at CicLAmini-Watts. Metro was a presenting sponsor of the event, via its Open Streets grant program.
CicLAmini-Watts 103rd Street hub

How successful the new CicLAmini format is remains to be seen.

While the smaller event provided new opportunities for bringing together residents along key community streets, the shorter route meant it touched fewer potential feeder communities. As such, turnout was a bit lower than a regular CicLAvia. But it is also difficult to know if that was because would-be participants preferred longer routes (or ones that were less likely to be shared with slower moving people including pedestrians, novice cyclists, families, and kids) or whether the issue was a lack of sufficient engagement and outreach with a community that often struggles with safe access to the public space. Or it may be simply that this was the first such event and that repeated events at regular intervals would help CicLAvia build a stronger relationship with the community and a more robust understanding of the kinds of activities that draw residents into the public space.

Looking ahead, the new format raises other questions, too. LADOT's 2021 Strategic Plan was to "Increase the frequency of open streets events to monthly by 2022 and to weekly by 2023." Should CicLAvia fans be worried that shorter routes are being introduced at the moment that the city is planning to make these events more frequent? This year eight CicLAvias are scheduled; two are minis. Will that calculus change?

The second CicLAmini will be in North Hollywood on Sunday, September 17, and the next longer-format CicLAvia will be June 18 - Juneteenth - in South L.A.

Readers - how was your experience at yesterday's CicLAmini - Watts? What did you think of the more compact CicLAmini format?

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