Westward ho for CicLAvia
January 17, 2013
Saddle up, Westsiders: L.A.’s favorite rolling street party is headed your way in April.
CicLAvia, the car-free bicycle and pedestrian fest started in 2010, is on the move again, preparing for its most ambitious year yet with three events, including one that will stretch from downtown to Venice Beach on April 21.
It’s part of a major expansion that organizers hope eventually will stretch to all corners of the county and create 12 separate, localized CicLAvias each year.
“Up till now we’ve been downtown. Now we want to show that it will work in the rest of the region,” said Aaron Paley, CicLAvia’s co-founder. A second 2013 CicLAvia is being planned for June 23 with a new route expected to run along Wilshire Boulevard from downtown L.A. to Fairfax Avenue near LACMA. And this year’s third event, on October 6, will return to familiar territory downtown, although with a deeper stretch into Boyle Heights and a new route into Chinatown.
The downtown-to-Venice Beach route will be the longest yet for CicLAvia—15 ¼ miles each way—and carries with it some important cross-town symbolism.
“One of the things that’s exciting about connecting downtown and the Pacific is just the sheer drama and the significance of it,” Paley said. “We know that the east-west connection is very difficult and for people who drive it every day, it’s a challenge…The idea that you will be able to walk or ride your bike—or go in your wheelchair or do your inline skating—and go from downtown to the beach is just of historic significance.”
Venturing out on such a long ride should be attractive to many participants, but Paley said the event is more about creating a pop-up “linear park” on city streets than throwing down an endurance challenge.
“This isn’t the marathon. It isn’t all or nothing,” he said. “We want kids to be able to explore, maybe get out and ride in the streets for the first time that day. And if they ride a half mile, that’s great.”
The hope is that participants will arrive via public transportation if possible—perhaps by taking the Expo Line to the Culver City station at Venice and Robertson, or riding the bus to the Pico/Rimpau Transit Center at Venice and San Vicente.
Paley said the impetus for pushing outside the downtown zone and toward the ocean this year came from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who kept asking: “When can we go all the way to the beach?”
The mayor, he said, even burst into a planning meeting to promote the idea—prompting a round of brainstorming in which the Department of Transportation’s special events traffic guru, Aram Sahakian, came up with the idea of using Venice Boulevard, a route traveled by other events like the Los Angeles triathlon.
“We’ve used it before. We know exactly what we’re dealing with,” Sahakian said.
Taking the route deep into the Westside—where traffic woes are among the city’s worst—will require plenty of outreach to make sure residents and businesses know what’s coming. “I’m crossing my fingers and praying that they won’t be too unhappy,” Sahakian said.
So far, so good, said Diana Rodgers, who manages the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market and is enthusiastic about the coming of CicLAvia to her area.
“We love it and we want to be a partner and provide refreshments,” she said.
The farmers’ market, which takes place on Sundays and is located on Venice at Grand View Boulevard, is accustomed to rolling with the closures that come with big events like the marathon and triathlon, Rodgers said, and should be able to take CicLAvia in stride.
“As long as we have the information, we tend to do OK, as long as we have crossing guards at the points needed,” Rodgers said.
Westside cyclists like Cynthia Rose, director of the group Santa Monica Spoke, said the new route will be a big draw in her part of town.
“There’s a huge pool of enthusiastic Westside supporters and they’ve felt sort of geographically separated,” she said. “Now all of a sudden it’s going to be that connecting of the dots, from the ocean to downtown Los Angeles.”
Paley said the final map for the downtown-to-Venice Beach route is still being fine-tuned. The CicLAvia team will be taking an exploratory ride along the proposed route Sunday to see how it works and connects with two major hubs downtown—City Hall and Union Station.
Beyond the 2013 lineup, he’s looking forward to CicLAvia’s gradual multi-year expansion.
“We want the entire county to be able to benefit from Ciclavia,” Paley said.
So what’s on tap for 2014? “I can tell you that the Valley,” Paley said, “is high on our list.”