CicLAvia, the recently developed daytime event that temporarily removes automobiles from the roads for a number of hours, will be taking place again this Sunday. A Los Angeles adaptation to ciclovia, a Spanish term meaning “bike path,” CicLAvia seeks to promote awareness of biking as a mode of transportation, following the model that takes place in Bogota, Colombia on a weekly basis. Ciclovias originated in the Colombian capital in 1976 as a means to provide relief from the excessive congestion and pollution of automobile usage.
No stranger to such problems, Los Angeles, widely known as the nation’s gridlock capital, decided in 2009 to begin holding its own version of the event, blocking off 10 miles of roads for people to ride their bikes freely, skateboard, and walk. So far, three successful CicLAvias have been staged.
It might appear that the city is headed on an exciting two-wheeled trajectory. But realistically, how much progress is actually being made? As it is, the mayor’s supposedly different 2010 Bike Plan will take a projected 25 years to be fully executed, and even that figure is doubtful to skeptics. In addition, the government has lost faith with many on the issue of transportation, particularly after the much-publicized Expo Line delays.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has at least acknowledged the need for change in society as a root of the transportation conundrum, calling for a “cultural paradigm shift” requiring drivers to learn to “share the road.”
This view is shared by Dan Dabek, Director of Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.), a non-profit bicycle advocacy group based in Los Angeles. “In terms of changing the culture, we have to address behavior,” Dabek said. “I think that it’s hard for politicians to do things that are politically unpopular. But if people go to events like CicLAvia, or go out on a cycle ride, they’ll really see the benefit of bicycling, and walking, and taking alternative modes of transportation, [and] I think that they’re going to start petitioning for changes in the city, and I think the government will follow what the people want … it’s just that people need to change their perceptions, and then ask for it.”
CicLAvia is only one of the numerous cycling events that various organizations have scheduled for the weeks ahead. The League of American Bicyclists has declared May “Bike Month,” which will include a Bike-to-Work Week as well as a Bike-to-School Day. In the meantime, organizers and sympathetic politicans will keep pushing for that cultural paradigm shift.
(image via Citoyen du Monde Inc)