Where were you this past Sunday? Did you pedal into downtown Los Angeles, where normally traffic-choked streets were closed to cars and trucks to let pedestrians and cyclists roam free? Thousands did an slow-mo eight-mile shimmy from East Hollywood to Boyle Heights that conformed to no known laws of the normally auto-centric universe that is the Los Angeles region. (Read more about CicLAvia.)
Call it a holiday from the rules and regulations that govern our streets that comprise so much of our public space. Pedestrians set aside concerns about jaywalking or fears about getting nailed while stepping off the curb. Cyclists looped in the streets like when we were kids, without worrying about two tons of metal bearing down on the rear wheel. Daily drivers could momentarily forget the vehicle code that governs our every move on four wheels. Sunday was a celebration of two wheels, three wheels and no wheels.
Folks rode race bikes, low-riders, and hand-fashioned rigs that never saw the inside of a bike shop. Many showed great creativity by wrapping themselves in spandex, leather, or leisure wear that complimented the blue skies and 80s temperature. They sported costumes and toted hand-lettered signs to underscore the message of the day: that streets belong to people. Impromptu encampments at the center of the city’s normally busiest intersections claimed space (if only for a day) unfairly ceded to motorists alone.
Formerly downtrodden commercial districts sprang back to life as pedestrians and cyclists descended for food and beverage. If was any proof was needed that non-motorists are best friends to local merchants, sights like this one on 6th Street in Koreatown (at left) proved the point. This hive of activity was seen at Heliotrope and Melrose in East Hollywood and Downtown along Spring Street and 1st Street, in Little Tokyo.
People seemed to delight in the collective rediscovery of togetherness as an urban virtue.
As the human imagination on Sunday brightened the dark corners of a normally inhospitable city, CicLAvia reminded us that the most precious resource we have isn’t oil, it’s public space. We’re not creating much more of it, so let’s make the best use of what we have. (See more images of the celebration on Flickr or read more on LAist, BlogDowntown, or StreetsBlogLA.
Yes, CicLAvia on Sunday pointed the way toward a future when streets accommodate not only motorists but pedestrians, cyclists, the disabled and children too. Access to public space is not only a matter of fairness and equity, and that’s a value we need to internalize if we are to embark on an inevitable, sustainable urban future.
It is within our grasp after a near-century of auto domination. It’s up to us to make better transportation and planning decisions, and we can start right here in Beverly Hills. Get on board as we encourage policymakers to imagine city streets not clogged with cars but choked with people out for the day, enjoying our shared space without a care in the world.