City officials are exploring the possibility of closing Main Street from Colorado Avenue to the southern city limits to automobiles for the first Santa Monica Ciclovia event on October 10, 2010.
The concept of Ciclovia originated in Bogota, Columbia in 1976 and is now used worldwide to designate a bicycle route or a temporary event where streets are closed to automobiles so they can be used by bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and others.
The City’s Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously endorsed the idea of Santa Monica holding a Ciclovia event last month. Recreation and Parks Commissioner Richard McKinnon explained to the Mirror that he suggested October 10 for the first Ciclovia because it is before the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season and after children are back at school.
Main Street was chosen as the road to close for this event because of its width, its parking lots along its west boarders, its two leading skateboard shops in business there, and because it is already heavily walked and biked by both locals and tourists.
As the street where the annual Fourth of July parade is held, Main Street has a history of dealing with many of the same “nuts and bolts” issues that a Ciclovia event would face. Some of these issues are the rerouting of buses, signage, providing traffic detours, and paying the City metered parking fees. McKinnon also mentioned that many of the people who have worked on the parade are now part of the organizing committee for the Ciclovia and they are meeting weekly.
“Normally a street has one function, it’s a place for cars,” he said, but when cars are removed, it can have many functions. McKinnon emphasized the event is “all about physical activity” and would include music, yoga, salsa dancing, and Tai Chi.
He estimated about $27,000 to $30,000 is be needed in order to have the event. Half of that will go towards policing, permits, and parking costs. Also part of the equation will be the business community which he hopes will play an “integral part in this.”
If the first Santa Monica Ciclovia is successful McKinnon hopes it will grow to an event that will happen at least four times per year. Other city streets he envisions that might be used for an event like this could be San Vicente, Ocean Avenue, Broadway, and Montana Avenue.
Executive Director of the Main Street Improvement Association Gary Gordon, said his Board hasn’t taken a position on the possible Ciclovia event yet, but in his personal opinion, if the event is “similar to the Fourth Of July parade, the merchants will support it.” An event like this could bring a lot of people down to Main Street.
City Council member Kevin McKeown made a motion at July 27 meeting that was unanimously approved by the Council, which authorized City staff to explore options for putting this type of event on. McKeown, who is a long-time bicycle advocate, said he was surprised Santa Monica hasn’t had a Ciclovia yet but noted, “it’s time to catch up on some of the good ideas we shelved while focusing on the update of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).
“A key premise of the LUCE is getting more people out of cars,” he said, and making bike access possible. If Santa Monica holds a Ciclovia event, “it may be just be one day, on one street, but this can move us forward to being the truly bicycle friendly city.” He added that the event is also a chance to “create a new sense of shared community in an area that is usually dominated by cars.”
The City’s Director of Community and Cultural Services, Barbara Stinchfield, said that her department would be meeting with the other relevant departments “to explore what is needed to make this happen.” She believes it’s “doable if we can get beyond the legal constraints.”
A key legal issue is that current ordinances allow permits for parades, but not this type of event. She is concerned that there may not be enough time by October 10 for the City Council to amend the ordinance for this type of use.
McKinnon stressed, Ciclovia are being held regularly in New York City, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, and in other cities throughout the world.
“It’s an idea whose time has come.”
More information can be found at www.cicloviasantamonica.com.