It has been a while since I’ve attended CicLAvia, but with this one practically in my backyard, I could not resist. It was the first ever CicLAvia outside the city limits of LA (and not the last) and the first one I attended with my whole family. As we rode to the event, we encountered others headed to the event. As we got closer, we saw more people, different ages and cycling abilities (i.e., not “cyclists”), and families with children who were headed to CicLAvia. We waved, smiled, and exchanged pleasantries. I always get excited as I see more and more people on different kinds of bikes headed to the open streets, like we are headed to a gathering of the tribes, distant kin on the same pilgrimage. As always, it seemed everyone had a smile and the crowd represented a huge, diverse cross-section of Southern California. As always, there were lots of families, lots of people of different ages, colors, backgrounds.
I loved observing my wife and kids experience the delights of car-free streets and the sense of community that pervades CicLAvia. My 15-year-old daughter, who rides to school with me each Monday, was awed at the sight and feel of Colorado Blvd filled with cyclists. “This is so cool,” she said as we cruised the Boulevard. “I wish it was always like this!” Uh-huh, I smiled. My wife, something of a chatty Cathy, particularly seemed to relish the conviviality of the event, striking up conversations with what seemed like every other person on the route. After lunch at a local restaurant, as we rode up Raymond Ave next to a young couple who were singing a Maroon 5 pop song, my wife spontaneously joined them singing the chorus (much to the embarrassment of my daughter). I smiled at the serendipitous, joyful human connections people make when they are released from dependence on their rolling isolation chambers. Just another CicLAvia moment.
This particular route was only 3.5 miles, the shortest CicLAvia to date, but since we rode there and back home, it didn’t seem too short to us. There were local “feeder rides,” sponsored by a variety of groups, but I’d like to see a greater effort to get even more people to and from the event on their bikes, so that more of the surrounding streets become informally “CicLAvia-ized” on the day of the event.
I’m a huge fan of such Open Streets events not only because they’re wonderfully fun and allow everyone to connect with their community in ways they cannot in a car, but because they also enable people to experience the freedom of car-free streets. When I asked my son what he liked best about CicLAvia, he told me it was the freedom of being able to ride around town “and not have to worry about cars.”
This experience, I believe, is potentially subversive of the domination of our public spaces by the automobile, and offers an immensely popular signal to political leaders that people hunger for car-free streets. As the open streets movement expands and becomes a regular part of the Southern California landscape it may alter people’s perceptions of what streets can be and expand their understanding of mobility beyond the automobile.
On our ride home, when I asked my son what he thought, his one word answer: “Awesome-tacular.”
Yup. ‘Nuff said.