Wide streets, smooth, flat roads, beautiful weather along the Pacific Ocean, and hardly a drop of rain in the sky. It is the sort of climate anyone on a bike would dream of. Perhaps no city is better made for the fixie ride dream than Los Angeles.
At least that’s what Bobby Gadda thought. After graduating from Reed in 2007, Bobby took a trip to Bogotá, Colombia, and learned about an event there called Ciclovía—a full day affair when anywhere from 2-10 miles of streets regularly busy with cars are closed off for families walking, roller skating, and biking—and decided to bring it to Southern California.
“We were amazed at not only how successful [Ciclovía] is,” Bobby says, “but also that it is held every week, and has been for the last 30 years. We [Bobby and his friend/fellow Reed graduate Adonia] moved to L.A. shortly afterward and went to a L.A. County Bike Coalition (LACBC) board meeting, just as newcomers, to ask about bringing Ciclovía to L.A.”
The LACBC liked the idea a lot. Bobby started a committee within the organization and spent the next two years preparing to put on their own event, what they would call CicLAvia, to both pay homage to the original Spanish term (ciclovia means bicycle path) and give it its own L.A. spin while separating it from the other Ciclovía events in the states that had already popped up in New York, San Francisco and Portland, OR. It may seem as if everything came together with minimal stress, but that certainly was not the case.
The main obstacle was securing the funding to put on the event. To do so, Bobby and his partners would have to raise around $100,000, mostly through writing grants. This money would pay for marketing and outreach for the event. Another $100,000 would come from the city, and would go towards paying for the traffic barriers and safety officers to keep the traffic moving. Though Bobby noted that the city is “loath to close streets and impact car traffic or parking,” officials were able to work closely with CicLAvia, They expected about 30,000 people to come out for the event.
How wrong they were, though. On October 10th, all the plans had been made, the seven-and-a-half miles of barred-off road was set up, and the event was ready to go. Around 100,000 people from within L.A., the suburbs and even San Diego and San Francisco showed up for the five-hour event to take part in the riding and fun. Bobby thinks the aand people’s interest in the serenity of quiet car-free roads.
“I think the opportunity to explore L.A. without dealing with cars really attracted people. A lot of the people who came are folks who used to live in L.A. who moved away for various reasons.”
The great success of CicLAvia has given Bobby and his partners at the LACBC (where he now works as the Bike Valet Coordinator) increased motivation to continue this event in the future. They already are planning to have four to six CicLAvia events next year, and hope to make it a monthly or even weekly event in the long run.
“Now, the whole idea is [that] it’s a temporary change to the streets, but if you do it every week it becomes routine. If you know that streets will be shut down every Sunday, you know you can go take a bike ride or a walk. In Bogotá, the Ciclovía really changed the culture of the city because people could rely on it happening. People in Bogotá don’t even ride bikes that much compared to other cities, but they know that once a week they can take out their bikes or they can go out and walk in a great setting.”
Bobby hopes to accomplish this with CicLAvia in L.A. He’s made the day successful once, and now the challenge is to simply do it again, and again, and again.