Cycling Through the Heart of Los Angeles
The morning air was deceptively humid under the grey skies of Los Angeles as thousands made their way to this Sunday’s Heart of LA event put on by CicLAvia. For the event, miles of streets were closed off to cars in a bicycle and pedestrian only path that started at MacArthur park, cut through Downtown, Chinatown, and finished in Boyle Heights.
CicLAvia, a play on the Spanish word “cyclovia” meaning “cycleway,” was started back in 1974 by a Colombian citizen named Jaime Ortiz Marino. Ortiz Marino, who went to college in the United States, returned to find Colombia was readily embracing the car culture that had overtaken America, destroyed its cities, and created a massive outbreak of the disease known as “suburbia.” In rebellion, Ortiz Marino created the first “cyclovia” in the streets of Botega, Colombia. Fast forward 42 years later, drop an “o,” add an “a,” and you have miles and miles of bicycle only open space in the streets of Los Angeles. Although a far cry from Botega’s weekly cyclovia, Los Angeles’ CicLAvia event this Sunday gave the citizens of sunny SoCal a much needed break from the onslaught of cars that would inevitably come the following day, and indeed, most other days.
John Deno has been going to CicLAvia events for about four years. “I just got silly string!” his grandson chimes in from down below in the seat of a bike that Deno built himself. It has three seats, all the perfect size for children, with a trailer pulling a tricycle. The whole contraption is decked out in UCLA blue and gold, with a UCLA pattern fabric on the seats. Deno started building custom bikes as a hobby. “We’ve been stopped about twenty times already,” said Deno, who put his phone number on the bike so potential customers can give him a call if they’re interested.
Although the event was primarily made for those on two wheels, they are not the only ones that attend CicLAvia events. Evena Wang, a student at Alverno Heights Academy, is among a large group of students from her school volunteering for the event. “This is kind of like a service project,” she said as one of her classmates danced in the street while wearing a tiger suit, the tiger being her school’s mascot. “We brought it here to encourage people to go on.” Indeed, it is hard not to feel better about the heat of the day when there is a giant tiger dancing in the street.