CicLAvia (photo: Sebastian Auer)

LA at Its Best

Posted by on May 20, 2016

If you want to see what Los Angeles can become, attend CicLAvia.

At the Southeast Cities CicLAvia, a friend and I cycled through the neighborhoods of South Gate, Lynwood, Florence-Firestone, Watts, and Huntington Park. With the notable exception of Watts Towers, these towns do not appear in travel guides for sunny California.

CicLAvia (photo: Sebastian Auer)

CicLAvia (photo: Sebastian Auer)

But I have to tell you: these communities shined brightly during CicLAvia.

Along the route, we saw neighborhood kids riding sting-rays and Big Wheel tricycles in the middle of the street. We saw old dudes showing off their tricked-out cruisers. There was music everywhere, from bandstands to boom-boxes strapped to handlebars.

Parishioners stood in front of their churches handing water bottles to passers-by. Restaurants were packed (forget about getting into LocoL or Gloria’s). Even the police were smiling. Everyone was smiling.

By opening streets to people, CicLAvia reflected the city back to us in a new way. New pathways on our streets were forging new neural pathways in our heads. You could see connections all around.

I’ve attended all but one of the 17 CicLAvias. Experiencing these events has profoundly changed my sense of Los Angeles, and what we can become.

And I was among the handful of activists that developed CicLAvia, and serve on its board. (Short aside: the great unsung hero of CicLAvia was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who championed it from the start.)

So what does CicLAvia have to say about climate change? A lot.

In coming decades, America will need to deal with considerably warmer weather and scarcer resources. Yet, as CicLAvia demonstrates, this new reality needn’t compromise our quality of life. On the contrary — a carbon-savvy city of bicycles and public transit and lively sidewalks could make our city a far richer place to live than the atomized and polarized America we have today.

CicLAvia could also make us more resilient. By experiencing LA’s many neighborhoods, we get to know one another better, and we feel more connected. That’s community. When the going gets tough, I believe we’ll work harder to help each other out.

CicLAvia is LA at its best, and portends a better future if we absorb its lessons.


More by Jonathan Parfrey