As many as 100,000 Angelenos took to the streets Sunday to imagine a car-less world — or at least downtown Los Angeles.
CicLAvia, a nine-mile street festival where the roads are only open to those with man-powered machines, closed down a sprawling criss-cross of streets from Chinatown to Exposition Park and from MacArthur Park to the Gold Line’s Soto Station.
Besides giving bikes free reign, the event featured a wide variety of destinations along the route. From food trucks to activist information stations to boutique shopping, the wide assortment of pit stops gave festival-goers a taste of everything local businesses had to offer.
CicLAvia co-founder Aaron Paley said the event does more than give locals another block party.
“What doesn’t it give back to the community?” he said. “It connects people together, it allows people to see the city in a different way, it empowers people.”
Paley said a lot of coordination went into expanding this year’s routes. To make this year’s CicLAvia more accessible, his organization formed a committee to examine a wide variety of goals.
“Connecting neighborhoods, connecting low-income areas, avoiding grades, dealing with business friendly neighborhoods — lots of thinking went into it,” he said.
Paley credits the city’s partnership in making Sunday a success.
“The main thing is that we had the cooperation of the city,” he said. “It wasn’t ‘no no no,’ it was ‘how how how.’”
CicLAvia gets its inspiration, both in name and idea, from the weekly “ciclovia” events in Bogata, Columbia.
This is LA’s fifth CicLAvia, which began in Oct. 10, 2010, however organizers are hoping to do more and on a regular basis.
Tamara O’Connor, vice president of Community Arts Resources, Inc., a key coordinator of the event, said organizers are looking to open it up to the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.
“A lot of it is a cost issue, but I think certainly if we can do it in conjunction with elements of the public transportation then there’s no reason why all parts of the city can’t be activated eventually,” she said. “At this point it’s about taking the same model and activating it in different areas.”
As for frequency, she says there may be four more CicLAvias in 2013, however it depends in part on funding and also local cooperation. Although the event encourages attendees to visit small businesses along the route, some are inconvenienced by parking, changed bus schedules and limited community access.
“There are people who are severely impacted by the day, that is one of the reasons why we changed the route this time,” she said.
Beyond cultural and economic engagement, another goal of the event is to bring the event to communities where public health issues are important as many big sponsors are looking to invest in underserved areas.
“CicLAvia is becoming a benchmark of how active LA can be,” said O’Connor.