warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Bicycles To Take Over The Streets Of Los Angeles For CicLAvia

Emily Frost, Kaitlin Parker |
October 7, 2010 | 11:58 p.m. PDT


This Sunday, 7.5 miles of Los Angeles streets will be closed to traffic for the city’s first ever CicLAvia, where bikers and walkers will take to the streets, converting them into a park for a day.

CicLAvia organizer Jonathan Parfrey thinks CicLAvia will be a landmark event for Los Angeles.

“It’s going to be one of those red-letter days, when we’re going to think back on when did Los Angeles start the transition from the automobile to a new way of getting around this town,” Parfrey said.

Ciclovias, which means “bike path” in Spanish, started 30 years ago in Bogota, Colombia. Coucilmember Ed Reyes, a CicLAvia supporter, described a typical Sunday in Colombia.

“On Sundays, they shut down the main boulevard,” Reyes said. “Everyone takes over the street, except the vehicles.”

But Los Angeles is late to the party. Cities across the United States, including El Paso, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and New York, have already hosted major bicycle events.

Parfrey said part of the city’s delay is a byproduct of the recession.

“It’s been very difficult to tell cities that are involved that they have to find additional resources, when they’re really struggling right now,” Parfrey said.

There have been bureaucratic delays as well. CicLAvia had to pull in many city departments to get the project running.

“You have to win their trust," Parfrey said. "You have to bring them on board, and that’s taken a little more than two years.”

CicLAvia draws on funding from grants, earmarked city money and enthusiastic support from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who Parfrey said has been a champion of the project.

Parfrey believes part of that enthusiasm stems from the benefits to local businesses.

“There are businesses along that route,” Parfrey said. “Many of those businesses are closed on Sunday. But now, they’re going to have tens of thousands of people zipping by their front door or walking by their front door. This is an opportunity for small businesses to actually get increased revenue.”

Organizers do not want CicLAvia to be a one-time event. Parfrey imagines the scene planting a seed.

“They’re going to be bicycling around, and there’s going to be an idea that pops into their head,” Parfrey said. “And that idea is, ‘Why can’t we do this every day? Why is it just on a Sunday?’” Parfrey said.

Engineer and CicLAvia organizer Stephen Villavosa feels the same way.

“Because one Ciclovia, one CicLAvia doesn’t really accomplish the goal,” Villavosa said. “The goal is to have something that’s regular, that people can get used to and make it ritual routine, and actually then you see a benefit to the lives of the community.”

Ciclovias in Latin America happen on a weekly basis. Villavosa would be happy to see one in Los Angeles every other month. He would also like to see the route grow longer.

“I’m really happy with being able to start with a fairly large route, 7.5 miles,” Villavosa said. “That’s about what Bogota’s first system was. That’s about were Guadalajara started. Bogota is now at 70 miles, and Guadalajara is at 40 miles. I’d love to see it grow like that, and I’m happy with where we’re starting.”

When deciding on the route for Los Angeles, Villavaso and his team looked at three criteria.

“One of them was population density,” Villavaso said. “Another was accessibility to transit, and a third was that it should service an area that doesn’t have an abundance of parks already. We were looking at the areas in between those major parks that doesn’t have much public space for the population. Bring the park to the people to bring them to the park.”

Villaraigosa will be on hand to kick off the party this Sunday at 10 a.m. at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.

People can join at any time, anywhere along the route, but cars will be back on the road at 3 p.m.

This is part of an Annenberg Radio News and Neon Tommy collaboration.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.