CicLAvia Rallies Los Angeles Bicyclists After Gov. Brown’s Veto Of Bike Safety
In its third year, the event converted 10 miles of downtown roadways into walking and biking paths. At the intersection of 7th and Main, police officers waved through a seemingly endless stream of casual cyclists, occasionally holding up their hands to let cars file through. In a city where even small events typically cause major traffic backups and are often followed swiftly by public outrage, this particular fresh-air event was met with understanding from the inconvenienced motorists.
CicLAvia aims to reduce congestion and pollution in city streets and address health concerns caused by a lack of public green spaces and transportation alternatives. The event has cropped up all over the world in countries like Australia and most recently Belgium, but originated with the tradition of Ciclovías in Bogotá, Colombia.
“CicLAvías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space,” the group wrote in an introduction on their website. “In Los Angeles, we need CicLAvia more than ever.”
The program transforms blocks of city streets into mini-parks, inviting the public outside without the constant din and potential danger of car traffic. After an announcement in March by the City Council that LA would construct 1,600 miles of bike lanes, it seemed the city was well on its way to becoming a bike-friendly hub.
A hiccup in that progress came Saturday with Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of legislation that would have regulated safer practices between motorists and bicyclists. The measure proposed requiring at least three feet of room or deceleration to 15 mph while passing cyclists. The governor cited “legitimate concerns” raised by Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol in explaining his decision.
Bobby Gadda, CicLAvia board president and a program director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said that advisement steered the governor astray.
“It just sounds like he misunderstood what it’s about,” Gadda said.
SLIDESHOW BY REBECCA KIRKMAN
But he and other CicLAvia organizers were undeterred by the regulatory setback. Gadda said they hoped the event would open some eyes to the benefits of using bicycles as primary transportation.
“We want to show people what it’s like,” he said. “I’m always surprised how quiet it is on the street without all the cars.”
Gadda’s initiative is backed by some of the city’s most powerful figures, namely Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayor reacted to Brown’s legislative veto during a press conference just before opening the streets for CicLAvia.
“The governor didn’t see fit to sign it,” Villaraigosa said, “but what he’s got to understand is, we’re coming back.”
The mayor said he would continue to push for supportive bike legislation.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “There are 16 other states that have passed bicycle safety laws, and California’s got to get with the program.”
Villaraigosa has become a strong advocate for bike legislation since a fall last spring from his own bicycle, a motivator he acknowledged during the conference Sunday. Joining him at the podium were City Controller Wendy Gruel, actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. and City Council President Eric Garcetti, who spoke of fostering community connection.
“Los Angeles’ streets are for everyone,” Garcetti said. “Some people reported we are closing streets. Today is about opening streets.”
CicLAvia co-founder Jonathan Parfrey echoed that sentiment. “We’re creating a new day, where east meets west,” he said. “We’re bridging LA.”
But city residents may be more motivated to jump on the bike bandwagon as an alternative to the widely criticized public transit system. Frauke Mora brought her family to CicLAvia to take advantage of the opportunity to safely ride on city streets. She said she works downtown and drives on her daily commute. “I’m waiting for the Expo line to open,” Mora said. “I really haven’t ridden my bike in a long time.”
Mora may not be the bike-fluent Angeleno CicLAvia organizers had in mind when they put together this year’s event, but the group was adamant about the importance of a citywide overhaul.
“Today when you go on your CicLAvia, you’re going to be riding on a new bike infrastructure for the city,” Parfrey said. “This is a revolution here in Los Angeles.”
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