Thursday, May 2, 2013
CicLAvia #6, 4/21/13!
Sunday, April 21st, was our 5th, but the city of Los Angeles' 6th CicLAvia event, and the first to take people from downtown LA to the beach. Inspired by a similar event in Columbia called Ciclovia, CicLAvia has been an event that happens every few months or so (so far! hopefully more frequently in the future!), where streets of Los Angeles are closed down for a few hours for people to enjoy outside of their cars. Most people bike, but the others walk, skateboard, Rollerblade or scooter along. The routes change, but the heart of the event stays the same in that CicLAvia is: free, open-ended as long as you aren't driving a car and awesome (ok, well that's not a requirement, but you could have fooled me!) And since as usual, I carried my camera on our 18 mile ride, here's some reasons why I love this event:
I've got company!
As someone who bikes and walks around LA a lot, it's really a great experience to have so many others out there with me. It's even more awesome to feel like you can freely explore the streets without the constant fear of death-by-car since the interactions with cars are fairly limited on the route. It's also awesome to see all the different types of people out there biking together. Yay!
Exploring new Neighborhoods!
It's fun to explore new neighborhoods and see how they are actually connected to the ones you already know. This time we made it from downtown to essentially The Museum of Jurassic Technology - both places I had been before, but never slow enough and directly connected to see the old Victorian houses between. Things move by slower when you're biking, so there's more time to take things in and it's easier to stop and take a look around. Some neighborhoods I've just never really spent time in, others I usually explore alone or at times when it's not really ok to just stand in the middle of the street to take the perfect picture. CicLAvia mixes it up a bit and let's people experience the city in a new way.
It feels like the Playa!
So far, CicLAvia and the playa at Burning Man have been the best biking experiences of my life. Although they don't allow complete abandonment of biking responsibility, they both provide the chance to just enjoy biking in one of those ways where you can sit back and relax. As a result, in some ways, these events will always be interconnected in my mind. CicLAvia feels like a local version of Burning Man in some ways. Both provide some of the safest biking experiences I've had since I decided to start biking regularly. Both provide a community feel and allow even people like me to feel somewhat friendly about chatting randomly with people around me. Both bring out youthful playfulness and present an opportunity to share creativity. There's even some bikes that show up at CicLAvia that I'm 99.99% sure have graced the playa in the past.
People (and pets) are happy!
CicLAvia's also an awesome way to spend time with people and meet up with friends and it's not uncommon to encounter people randomly sharing, chatting, waving and smiling and generally enjoying both being part of and observing everything going on around them. This is one of the few events that I honestly look forward to and that makes me feel like "LA is doing SOMETHING right! Look at all the happy people!"
The number of people that show up (April 21st is currently estimated at 180,000) and variety of people really shows that there IS demand for this sort of thing. People in LA really do want to be outside, biking and hanging out in the streets where they can feel safe. People will exercise if you give them a good space to do it. People do spend money even if they aren't in a car (it's much easier to find bike parking, stop randomly or look at things when on a bike. We stopped and ate at Native foods, a vegan restaurant that was pretty packed with a line to the door the entire time we were waiting for our food and eating!) People really will talk to one another and are generally more pleasant face to face. I often joke with people, making the sound of a car horn and mentioning how weird it would be if people just walked up and honked at one another in the line at the store or when trying to get someone's attention at work. Cars create a weird way of interacting and living.
With all it's awesomeness, there's still some growing pains with the event. The congestion we experienced this time meant we didn't make it out to the beach in Venice nor were we able to meet up with a friend, but it was fun none the less. I also imagined how much WORSE the traffic would have been if the people were in cars with an average of 1.25 people and how much space that would have taken up instead of bikes. It also always feels like there isn't enough time! Five hours never feels long enough. It'd also be nice to have the hours outside of peak sunlight (10am-3pm) on streets without shade and 80+ degree weather - I accidentally missed putting sunscreen on my arms and paid for it.
I look forward to the time when I don't know what number CicLAvia event we're on and I can't say I'm able to go nearly every time because they happen so often. I really recommend, whoever you are, if you're ever in LA, even on a vacation, see if CicLAvia is going on and if so, make time for it. It's one of the best ways to experience LA I've found so far.