Sunday, April 28, 2013

Encouraging Health in Los Angeles—100,000 People at a Time

CicLAvia Draws Thousands to Ride, Walk, Roll and Play [4]
            Los Angeles officials are making strides toward encouraging public health throughout the city with the 6th annual CicLAvia event that occurred on April 21, 2013. The event, drawing inspiration from Bogota, Colombia's popular “Ciclovia”, similarly opens the streets for people to safely walk, skate, play and ride a bike on open streets for 15 miles. The streets of Los Angeles are essentially transformed into a five-hour moving block party that over 100,000 residents participated in. And the number of participants continues to grow.

            A movement like this didn’t happen without the help of influential forces coming together. Now heavily promoted and supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, CicLAvia began as an event to “promote a new kind of open space for Los Angeles.”[3] Powerful bicycle and pedestrian groups, such as Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, Streetsblog and the California Endowment came together in 2009 to encourage public health along with healthy outdoor events such as cycling and walking. Also an incentive behind CicLAvia is the ability to highlight and bring together different neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles showcasing their beauty and uniqueness.

            The driving force behind CicLAvia is the promotion of health and the community. Participants are given the opportunity to explore the city, making stops along the way to sample and learn about the multitudes of nearby farmers markets that offer fresh, affordable produce, learn about composting, and doing so all without the help of an automobile. The “opportunity to engage connects the idea of a healthy lifestyle and an important avenue to help reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”[1] Most importantly, the event is fun. With the multitude of benefits provided, the City of Los Angeles sees the price tag of $350,000, $205,000 paid for by the city, as a small price to pay for a big return on the investment.[2]

Engaging the Creation of “Living art” and What Health Means to Residents [1]

            CicLAvia has a promising future for Los Angeles. The next CicLAvia event is planned for June 23rd and is being coined the “Ionic Wilshire Boulevard Tour" because the route spans along Wilshire Boulevard from downtown to Mid-City at Fairfax Boulevard. The upcoming “Ionic Wilshire Boulevard Tour” route and last week’s “CicLAvia to the Sea” are examples of how the event is continuing to expand to new people in the city, and not just a downtown event for the younger urbanites.

            But perhaps the crowning jewel of CicLAvia is the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) ambitious plan to add 120 miles of bicycle infrastructure to city streets in the coming years.[3] With increased attendance at CicLAvia events, the public is likely to be more receptive towards LADOT’s investments in bicycle infrastructure. In this case, Los Angeles residents may consider a bicycle ride over a car trip. If that is the result, CicLAvia has done its job. 

[1] Angelenos Get Moving at the Bike-Friendly CicLAvia
[2] CicLAvia, LA Mayor Villaraigosa invite you to grab your bike & cycle your way to better health
[3] CicLAvia and Biking in LA
[4] Bikes make tracks on Metro trains

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