This past Sunday thousands of Angelenos (bikers, skaters and walkers) descended on a six-mile stretch of iconic Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles for an event whose route was not friendly to any motorists. This was the first of three such events taking place in Los Angeles over the next year.
What is ciclavia you ask? Well according to the website, "CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free street events. CicLAvia engages with people to positively transform our relationship with our communities and with each other. Connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic. The health benefits are immense. Ciclovías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options. CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. We can’t wait to see you at CicLAvia!"
Wilshire Boulevard is one of the oldest and famous street in Los Angeles. Known as "Grand Concourse", and even called the "Fifth Avenue of the West" it became the most expensive street in Los Angeles in the 1920's when wealthy folks were moving to what was quickly becoming the place to live. It wasn't long before automobiles, striped lanes and even the first street lights added to the grandness of this street.
Wilshire was once home to the creme of the crop of retail stores such as I.Magnin and the world famous Bullock's Wilshire a very upscale department store that was once considered the "crown jewel" of retailing. Part of the stores appeal was that it was located mostly in a residential area and that it was the first store to cater to the automobile with its grand entrance in the back of the store. It's 241 foot copper-sheathed tower surpassed the long standing tower of the Los Angeles City Hall building located in Downtown Los Angeles. The building once had a light on top the now green tarnished tower that could be seen for miles. Wilshire was also home to the Ambassador Hotel and the Brown Derby
Sunday the street belonged to the first installment of Ciclavia 2014 and the thousands of Angeleno's brave enough to get out of their cars for a few hours to enjoy the amazing LA weather and take in all the sights along the 6 mile stretch that Wilshire still has to offer.
It was a day when you could allow your mind to roam free and imagine for just a little what our culture would be like if we got out of our cars and jumped on a bike. Wonder for just a minute what LA would be like if more of us rode bikes daily. While the streets we packed with people riding bikes, everyone was smiling and enjoying their ride with friends and family. It was the kind of traffic that I'm certain many would welcome and embrace more often.
For those of us who travel along Wilshire Boulevard every single day dealing with massive traffic jams, massive Metro buses and the occasional fender bender, it was a day to simply relax, ride our bikes without the fear of being ran over or off the road by some driver in a hurry to get to the next red light while paying far too much attention to their phone then those of us riding bikes or crossing the street. A beautiful day where some Metro bus did not cut off or force us into parked cars.
For those of us born and raised here it was a day to look back, remember how grand certain parts of the boulevard use to be and just how grand other parts still are. It was a day for us to be proud of our great city, a day to remember that there is one place called the City of Angels and only one place where the old becomes new again and things from the past are front of center to remind of us of just how incredibly awesome Los Angeles is and how insanely blessed we are to live in such an awesome place unlike and unmatched by any other.
It was also a day of one less car actually it was a day of no cars at all.