Sunday, April 15, 2012

Photos and Video: CicLAvia - South Central to Boyle Heights

Part rolling block party, part experiment in urban/social engineering, and all fun, Los Angeles' 4th CicLAvia in two years (the first being on 10/10/10) was better than ever.

Inspired by Ciclovía, the original, weekly street closure event in Bogotá, Colombia, CicLAvia semi-annually shuts down 10 miles of roadway to auto traffic, opening up the neighborhoods from Boyle Heights to Downtown, MacArthur Park to East Hollywood, El Pueblo/Olvera Street, and South LA to pedestrians and bikers.

Perfect weather and clear skies brought out tens of thousands of riders, strollers and skaters. In fact, today's turnout was the biggest I'd seen so far, with more activities than ever before. Participants could climb a rock wall at Hollenbeck Park, play bike polo downtown, listen to live music in Macarthur Park, buy a pinata on 9th Street and much, much more.

This was the first year I couldn't get my act together to get up early enough to ride to CicLAvia from Venice, so I decided to do something a little different this time around. Instead of trying to do the entire route, I concentrated on the South-Central and Boyle Heights CicLAvia "hubs", exploring what those neighborhoods had to offer.

Overall, I was really happy with my choice. Normally, these are the neighborhoods I tended to skip on my other CicLAvia rides, and based on the crowds today, it looks like I wasn't alone. While downtown LA was wall-to-wall bikes, with long lines for food trucks and other vendors, the vibe around South Central, 9th and Olympic and Hollenbeck Park was more relaxed, the food trucks less up-market, and the bikes a whole lot funkier.

Here then are some of my photos and impressions of the day (click on any photo to see a larger version.)

CicLAvia route - South Central/Boyle Heights section

South Central LA - African American Firefighter Museum

Real Ridaz Bike Club - African American Firefighter's Museum

First stop was the African American Fightfighter's Museum - the only such museum in the United States. Sited in the beautifully restored Fire Station 30 at 14th and Central Ave, the museum celebrates the city's first 100 years of service by African American firefighters (1897-1997).

The highlight of the day for me was watching the Real Ridaz low-rider bike club strut their stuff. Somehow they were able to twist their chrome and mirrored creations into shapes most "normal" bikes just don't do, then hop on the saddle and ride them downtown. Here's a taste of what that was like:

Real Ridaz show their stuff at CicLAvia from Marta Evry on Vimeo.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Mayor Villaraigosa was on hand in full bicycle regalia - earlier that morning he surprised many bike activists by announcing a permanent bike sharing program in Los Angeles starting in December.  From LA Streets Blogs:

In an announcement that caught even some CicLAvia organizers by surprise, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this morning at the “CicLAvia opening” that CicLAvia partners Bike Nation will establish a permanent footprint in Los Angeles this December. The cost to the city will be minimal, as Bike Nation promises to pay for all of the 4,000 bikes and 400 kiosks coming to Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Venice Beach and Westwood. Bike Nation estimates it could take a full year to complete the installation.

“In tough economic times like these, we knew it wasn’t feasible to start a public bike share program,” explains Villaraigosa of the $16 million investment by Bike Nation. ”But we know it’s what LA needs. As we’ve seen with CicLAvia and ‘Carmaheaven,’ Angelenos are aching for a day without a car.”

Real Ridaz club member reflected in one his bike's MANY mirrors

Engine company 30

Real Ridaz bikes

Real Ridaz bikes
Funky helmets

Flier advertising future South Central Bike rides

Guessing that's not really his day job.

Coca-Cola building built in the shape of an ocean liner - 14th and Central Ave.

Bikes came in all shapes and sizes

"Pinata District" East Olympic Blvd. and 9th Street

Who knew Los Angeles had a "Pinata District"? Stretching along East Olympic Blvd. at the point it turns into 9th street, the area is lined with colorful bodegas, swap meets, car repair shops, and yes, places where you can get pinata - hundreds and hundreds of pinatas.

It was also the best smelling part of the ride, with dozens of impromptu food carts, barbeque pits and taco stands set up to accommodate riders. I was drooling for three miles.


Downtown LA/ City Hall

Traveling east on 9th Street, and turning north on Spring, I ran into the highest density of riders I would encounter that day. So many bikes were crammed into downtown, they would quickly fill up a city block as they waited for the traffic monitors to let them pass.

Entering the downtown cooridor
LA City Hall
garment district shops

OMG! A round-about!!!!!
Spring Street round-about traffic

showing off

This man needs a sandwich

 LA River to Boyle Heights/Hollenbeck Park

My late lunch stop and turn-around point. Hundreds of cyclists and families were lounging around the grass, eating yummy food from about half a dozen food trucks parked around the perimeter (can't say enough about the shrimp "frankie" I bought off a truck selling Indian fusion food). REI had a booth where you could have your photo taken, and a few intrepid (and non too tired) participants even tried their hand at climbing a rock wall they set up on the lawn.

REI-sponsored rock climbing wall at Hollenbeck Park

Too soon it was time for me to turn around and go home. October's CicLAvia can't get here fast enough.


  1. Your pics are awesome, seems like you had fun! I'm very much into cycling myself. I ride my bike almost everyday and it's always cheering to know there are events like these that take place, even if it's on the other side of the world and I can't go. :-) Glad LA is getting a bike-sharing program too. I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a great eco-friendly achievement. I live in the North of France and a public bike-sharing network was launched in my city last year. Over the months, hundreds of terminals were installed throughout the city and a massive number of people now use public bikes on a daily basis (particularly today since public transport workers are on strike). :-) Anyway, thanks for sharing your impressions. I'd love to attend something like this one day. It's a good way to promote cycling and certainly a good opportunity to get in touch with fun and creative people.

  2. That's so great to know about France. We'll be visiting Paris this summer. I'm looking forward to trying their bike sharing program out!

    1. Paris is my hometown. The bike-sharing system works very well and has even been extended to a few suburbs nearby. The only (minor) drawback in my opnion is the weight of the bikes. But I guess they're meant to resist intensive use and shocks. In Lille, where I live, the "first-generation" bikes are progressively replaced with much lighter ones. I hope you'll have a great time in Paris and enjoy cycling there! :-)