In an effort to make the biggest cycling event in L.A. even more badass, the organizers of CicLAvia this year have extended the route to an unprecedented distance. Taking place tomorrow, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., CicLAvia will now stretch from downtown to Venice Beach. That means 15 miles free of cars for everyone from adults to kids to roam on their bikes.
It might sound like a nightmare to drivers or an impossible feat for a city, but the new route actually came up due to Mayor Villaraigosa's full support. CicLAvia executive director Aaron Paley recalls that around November 2012 the mayor gave the organization the go-ahead to execute the longer route. Paley initially thought it would prove too big of a task for LAPD and the city but once CicLAvia got the okay, plans began to unfold.
The biggest challenge was just making the event happen in such a short amount of time. The organization worked on its first route, in 2010, for two years and planned about 12 months in advanced before the next route. The “very sudden” decision to undertake this new route meant putting extra effort not only into organization but convincing people and businesses. Yet Paley counts the reactions as mostly positive.
“We've been getting I would say very similar reactions as we did when we introduced the first CicLAvia,” says Paley. “Businesses and people are incredibly welcoming. A lot are kind of scratching their head trying to figure out, 'What is this? What does this mean?' I mean, there are some — but an incredibly small group maybe, I can count them on two hands — who feel like that CicLAvia is an extreme inconvenience. Otherwise, considering the scale and magnitude of this, we're very well-received.”
One of those reasons it's so beloved is that it gives Angelenos a different perspective on streets they drive through often. Paley also sees the starting and end points as culturally significant to the city.
“We're literally going between the historic birthplace of L.A., which is the old church — the Placita Church on Main Street opposite Olvera Street — and Abbot Kinney's man-made utopia, Venice, this fantasy seaside resort that he built,” says Paley.”When Abbot Kinney set up his fantasy one of the most important things was that there was a streetcar that connected downtown with it and I think [CicLAvia is] a historic retracing of that route.”
A commute from Olvera to Abott Kiney by car would mean significant traffic so the idea of traveling that route without traffic makes the route especially intriguing. Not to mention the distinct character of the streets leading up to Venice.
“We want people to not just see the landmarks of the city,” says Paley. “There are long stretches of Venice that might not have things that people say, 'That's a landmark,' but it has a very distinct character and it is actually a place in and of itself,” says Paley. “When you are on a bike or walking you can actually see and appreciate. In a car, you just don't get it the same way.”
Of course, organizing a new route takes additional funding, but CicLAvia, undaunted, is looking to create more routes so that at some point the organization can boast a different one for each month of the year.
“We've doubled our budget every year since we started so this is a rapidly growing enterprise,” says Paley. “And in order for that to become possible, that growth that I'm describing… clearly we're going to need to keep expanding our capacity and raising addition funds.”