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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What CicLAvia Might Look Like: Scenes From "Oaklavia" And Other Car-Free Street Events

Image via Sunday Streets SF

In just a couple of months, Los Angeles will begin an experiment with temporary street closure of streets for CicLAvia (promotional video can be found here).

Inspired by Ciclovia, a weekly event in Bogota, Colombia, CicLAvia (note the distinctive "LA" spelling) will take place on Sunday, September 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ciclovia began in 1976 in Bogota as a response to street congestion and pollution. Today, up to 1.5 million people participate every Sunday -- that's 30% of the population. Bogota is well-known for advancing sustainable transport. A recent article from the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation notes that the city spent more than twice as much on bikeways between 1990 and 2002 than the entire United States did!

The CicLAvia route will extend through some of Los Angeles' most diverse and dense neighborhoods: Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, Downtown, MacArthur Park, Koreatown and East Hollywood. The route parallels many Metro subway and light rail stations, making it that much easier for Angelenos to participate.

More than 30 years since Colombia led the way, several communities in the United States have adopted their own version of Ciclovia, including Portland Sunday Parkways, El Paso Ciclovia, Sunday Streets San Francisco, Tucson Ciclovia, Spokane Summer Parkways, New York Summer Streets and Chicago Sunday Parkways).

Scenes from many of these events can be found at StreetFilms Ciclovia Channel.

Oakland, California launched their "Oaklavia" event on June 28, and it looks like a tremendous success. While some visualizations of how LA's CicLAvia might look can be found here, the following video from the Oakland event shows not just bicyclists taking over the streets, but an engaged community of thousands walking, dancing, performing music and circus art and having the time of their lives.

One participant poignantly notes, "It almost feels illegal to be this free."

The coordinator of San Francisco's event stated that "A city street becomes an entirely different landscape when you take the cars away. It creates opportunities for people to come out and exercise, meet their neighbors, and learn to appreciate their city in a whole new way."

Blog Downtown writes that "while the City has pledged to cover traffic and public safety expenses for the event, fundraising is underway for expenses related to coordination, marketing and outreach."

Even before CicLAvia is launched, The City of Los Angeles is already anticipating success. Its 2010 Draft Bicycle Plan released last month includes Encouragement Objective 1.41A: Monthly Car-Free Days: Coordinate a Car-Free Day on a regular basis each month.

It will be interesting to see whether car-centric Los Angeles will consider this event as a closing of streets, or instead, opening them up.

Resource list:

CicLAvia website
CicLAvia on Facebook
CicLAvia on Twitter

"Ciclovias All Over The World" (videos : StreetFilms)

"Public Space = Public Health" (Huffington Post, February 23, 2010)

"Nobody Walks In L.A.? Not If CicLAvia Has Its Way" (Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2009)

"Car-Free Streets, A Colombian Export, Inspire Debate" (New York Times, June 24, 2008)

"Traffic Stoppers: An Increasing Number Of Cities Are Temporarily Closing Streets To Cars And Opening Them To Pedestrians And Cyclists. It Fosters A Greater Sense Of Community" (Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2008)