The second CicLAvia was held near downtown Los Angeles on April 10. This celebration of cycling in urban spaces – usually dominated by autos – was a great success. With a group of some 100,000 cyclists, ranging from kids with training wheels to lycra-clad racer types, explored 15 miles of car-free streets.
This event — you cannot really call it an organized ride, since it has no start, no finish, and no real goals except to cycle in car-free streets — had some wonderful side effects, including helping change the mind of former anti-cycling LA Times columnist Sandy Banks. In her April 12 column, she wrote that CycLAvia showed her “a Los Angeles I felt proud to be part of.”
But CicLAvia is a three-time a year event, and while it’s wonderful, what about cycling on a day-to-day basis? Here’s a suggestion: consider making your own miniature, personalized version of it, right here on the streets of Santa Monica. For many, riding a bike in traffic is very intimidating, especially if you aren’t used to it. What CicLAvia gives a person is a chance to ride in a car-free, supportive environment. With some care, you can duplicate some of the event’s power.
Why not gather a few friends or family members and go ride a beautiful route locally? By doing rides with friends or family members on a well-chosen route, you will get the essential social support that makes cycling on the road seem less scary. Such rides will help you to graduate to more challenging trips by yourself for shopping, yoga, or trips to the bank, or even just to get a quick, hassle-free workout right outside your own front door.
As far as routes go, Santa Monica has many. An evening jaunt heading north of the beach bike path with friends can give you a good start, and a completely car-free one. But there are other routes too. Ocean Avenue has extensive bike lanes, as does San Vicente Boulevard. The residential streets south of San Vicente and north of Montana, between Lincoln and 26th Street have beautiful greenery, houses, and few cars, even though there are no bike paths. By starting out with an easy cycling workout on such streets in like-minded company, you will become more comfortable on your bike on the street, and can move on to riding for either exercise or practical reasons on your own.
The wonder of cycling is that it can help strengthen not just the rider’s heart, lungs, and muscles, but also a communal identity – the social glue that makes communities healthier. While driving around in two-ton autos is convenient given our current infrastructure, as numerous city planners have pointed out, it tends to isolate people, breaking them up into isolated individuals who have little community feeling. Through your own private cycling events, you can make your community, your Santa Monica, a city with a stronger and healthier identity, and a safer place for you, your children, and everyone.
For more information about cycling, visit smspoke.org, the website of Santa Monica Spoke, a local bicycle advocacy group.