Where the Ride Takes Us: Opening the Streets; Connecting Communities

In honor of National Bike Month, we’re spotlighting how bicycles are tools for personal empowerment, social justice and community development with our “Where the Ride Takes Us” web series. Today’s post comes from Tafarai Bayne, a board member of CicLAvia.

tafarai-2_600Waking up on April 21, reminded me of waking up on the morning of a big field trip in grade school — except today I was going right down the street from my house. Frankly, I couldn’t even sleep. This was the biggest CicLAvia ever and no one knew exactly what was going to happen.

After four events mostly centered around downtown with shifting spurs in all directions, the latest endeavor extended from the heart of the city 15 miles to Venice Beach. So many communities along the way to explore — so many Los Angelenos to meet.

It’s the unique mix of place activation and community engagement that makes this event so special and critical for the future of places like Los Angeles.

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In a city that is such a victim of it’s own sprawl, events like CicLAvia can help fill in the gaps that separate communities socially, economically and geographically. And much like the previous additions, CicLAvia to the Sea proved to be another notch in the belt of our amazing cities evolving waistline.

From the moment I arrived on the route for my volunteer duty at the Koreatown Hub and heard one of the volunteers yelling at the top of her lungs, arms waving, ”Good Morning LA!!! Good Morning LA!!!” the magic started to take hold.

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Evaporated like a spring shower on a warm day, gone were the differences that often prevent strangers from meeting eye-to-eye and exchanging words. They were replaced by lots (and lots) of sweaty people and pumping legs.

Gone were all the four-wheeled individual universes speeding through neighborhoods ignorant of the many nooks and crannies that represent the individual pages of the full LA story. They were replaced by curious eye’s and open hearts looking for the next corner to rest on… a new restaurant to grab a bite… some new neighborhood to explore and shops to make return visits to. In this way, the cultural salad that makes up our amazing city is put on display. Traffic jams waiting for lights become chatty speed-date sessions for new friends and riding companions.

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The real treat tends to be watching Los Angeles play though.

Some people can forget just how diverse Los Angeles is when you spend your days floating between workplaces and home lives. Los Angelenos are as diverse as the bikes they ride. From Schwinns to fixies to beach cruisers to 14-foot tall bikes to high-end racing bikes, much like LA’s famous car culture, the kind of wheels say a lot about all the different types of riders that come out to play when the cars are put away.

LA’s cultural heritage is put on display and, what I really love is that, when the field is leveled everybody actually gets along really well.

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As people made their way, at their own speed, through the communities of Downtown, Pico-Union, Koreatown, Mid-City, Culver City, Mar Vista, and Venice Beach another CicLAvia made it’s way into the history books. Soon, new communities will be introduced to what Open Streets can mean for them and the “new” Los Angeles we are getting more glimpses of will be that much closer.

Learn more about CicLAvia here.

 

My Signature

Carolyn Szczepanski
Communications Director

Carolyn 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.

via Bikeleague.org Blog http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog/2013/05/where-the-ride-takes-us-connecting-diverse-communities/