Thousands of Southern Californians took to the streets of Boyle Heights and beyond this Sunday thanks to Metro’s CicLAvia, an event that offers pedestrians, cyclists, and scooterists a chance to walk, run, or ride on closed city streets throughout Los Angeles communities in a more environmentally friendly way.
People from all corners of the Southland came to celebrate the openness of normally congested streets and boulevards, and in turn were offered chances to slow down and really engage with the neighborhoods they were in.
In Boyle Heights, 1st Street was closed to vehicle traffic from Evergreen Cemetery to Mariachi Plaza for the event, and the connecting stretch of St. Louis to Whittier Boulevard was also closed, giving riders and pedestrians alike access to the 6th Street Bridge. Food vendors, crowded bars, bike service tents, and DJs were a common sight at the Mariachi Plaza Hub.
Carlos Diaz stood at the intersection of Boyle and 1st Street, taking in the view of Downtown LA that Mariachi Plaza offers to those who would normally be stuck at a traffic light. He wore a gray shirt with the California flag on it, but the ever-so-familiar grizzly was riding a bicycle, much like the green cruiser that Diaz was riding.
Diaz came from Long Beach to ride the route, which he said he’d do two or three times if he had the energy. Some of his favorite things about CicLAvia events are being around other bikers and having the opportunity to take photos of Los Angeles’ skyscrapers.
“You can take your time and see all the buildings and attractions,” Diaz said about being able to get up close to buildings in LA. “You can stand in the middle of it all and look up at them without being worried about getting hit by a car”
Nearby, Paul Kramer and his wife Lucy were sitting in the shade at Mariachi Plaza, resting before heading to Chinatown for dim sum. They were coming to Boyle Heights from Orange County and, having been to a few CicLAvia events in the past, were excited to explore the Eastside and be outdoors together.
“We’re kind of outdoor people, period. And we’re also city people. So this puts it all together. Get out of the city, away from the traffic. That’s what we like to do. And it’s on our bikes,” Kramer said.
Many riders proudly paraded their rides around the event – oversized unicycles, BMX builds or professional racing rigs were all over First Street. But Joe Tovar, a Boyle Heights native, preferred a more classic look.
His vintage Western Flyer, with almost all original parts, leaned against the stone kiosk at Mariachi Plaza. His rolled zarape and decorative raccoon tail were affixed to the saddle. He had been slowly building up his ride for a few years and had a plan to show it off Sunday morning.
“I’ll ride to Downtown, visit la Placita Olvera, también,” Tovar said.
And like Tovar, countless other families, bike riding groups like 605 Riders or LACLIKA, all made their way west across the 6th Street Bridge.
Straddling the median on the bridge, Jeff Prosser jogged towards downtown as bikes whizzed by in both directions. He said he had already rode the route around Chinatown with his son and wife, but wanted to get more exercise in and chose to run along the bridge solo.
“I feel like getting out, other than in a car, really helps you find out more about where you live. I do a lot of running. I’ve learned so much about this town just being on the streets. And I think it’s great for people to come out and see different neighborhoods. We got Downtown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights. Places where people might not necessarily always be up about walking around or biking,” Prosser said.
Back in Mariachi Plaza, Chris Anaya and his family were waiting in the shade for a few other family members to arrive so they could cruise down the designated route. Anaya and his son live in Boyle Heights and were excited to ride along the streets they normally use to get to work and school.
“I really like this event every year because it brings a lot of unity together with different people,” Anaya said. “And people come from very far out just to experience this bike ride.”
But despite recalling positive memories about events past, Anaya brought up a scary experience from a few years ago, where he was accidentally separated from his son while on a ride.
“We lost each other somewhere on Broadway and 1st,” Anaya recalled, saying that the Los Angeles Police Department even brought out a search helicopter to help find the youngster.
“They ended up finding him on Alvarado and Eighth. So he’ll never forget that and I’ll never forget that,” Anaya laughed. “So this is like a tradition type of thing we do. It’s fun and we love it because we bike ride all the time anyway.”
Anaya’s son, David, 9, didn’t seem to mind getting lost along the streets of LA. Even though he said he had a cell phone now, was he going to make the same mistake this year?
“Probably,” the young man joked.
When LA’s noisy, car-oriented streets are actually closed to cars, getting lost on some of the most beautiful roads and bridges in the world suddenly doesn’t seem like a bad thing.