For a short time on Sunday, streets were liberated from automobiles in Los Angeles and Atlanta — and thousands of residents flooded into their reclaimed public space.
With the roads closed to cars, more than 100,000 Angelenos and 20,000 Atlantans took advantage by biking, walking and celebrating community in a variety of creative and active ways. Both initiated in 2010, CicLAvia and Atlanta Streets Alive are just two of the growing number of open streets events nationwide. In fact, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Open Streets Project, the movement in North America has grown from only 11 initiatives in 2005 to more than 80 this year.
According to The Los Angeles Times, CicLAvia has become so popular that organizers are optimistic about more frequent events:
Los Angeles held its first CicLAvia in October 2010, blocking off more than seven miles of streets from Boyle Heights to East Hollywood. There have been four others since, including Sunday’s, and the event remains hugely popular.
Before that first L.A. event, it perhaps seemed optimistic to imagine 100,000 people coming out to participate. But now drawing such a crowd is par for the course, and CicLAvia is working to expand into other parts of the city and other cities in L.A. County. Already, the route has been inching farther and farther into South and East Los Angeles.
“People love CicLAvia because it is incredibly fun, and there is a sense of camaraderie and community that is rare for a city as large and diverse as ours,” CicLAvia co-founder Aaron Paley said in a statement.
At the news conference, Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti said he would like to see CicLAvia become a monthly event.
Atlanta Streets Alive also garnered positive reviews from local journalists, including Maria Saporta:
Walking the entire route on Sunday, the theme that kept surfacing was community. It was hard to walk several feet without seeing friends and acquaintances — stopping to chat or give hugs or just simply waving hello.
It could not have been a more beautiful day — with the chill of an early fall. For many, it was their first encounter with the Atlanta BeltLine’s new concrete pathway along the Northeast quadrant. A common refrain was how different Atlanta looked from the perspective of the old railroad corridor.
It was along the BeltLine where ran into [Atlanta Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Rebecca] Serna (pictured), who was beaming with the success of Sunday’s event.
As we ended our five-mile walk, we couldn’t help thinking — this should take place every Sunday.
Well as a city, we’re probably just not there yet. But it does feel as though we are on our way.
Want to learn more about this exciting movement? Our partners at the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and the Open Streets Project are hosting a free webinar TODAY at 3 p.m. Eastern.
The webinar will include a history of the Open Streets movement, discussion of the health and equity benefits of Open Streets programs, and an introduction to the Open Streets Project interactive website and tools for organizing an event. The webinar also features case studies of a large city’s open streets program (Chicago) and a smaller city’s program (Somerville, Mass.).
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.