Is there such a thing as a rolling CicLAvia?

June 17, 2010 at 10:01 am 3 comments

Critical Mass bike ride in San Francisco - image from 19th Ave Park Association website

Is there such a thing as a rolling CicLAvia? Read below for why we ask this question and why we think that there probably isn’t such a thing.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a flier that states that police will be accompanying Los Angeles Critical Mass rides. The flier (full flier posted here) states:

LAPD officers will be present to ensure the safety of all those who lawfully participate and will take enforcement action against those who violate the law or the vehicle code. 

For readers unfamiliar with Critical Mass bike rides, they’re a monthly leaderless celebration/demonstration of the joy of bicycling. They take place all over the world. They’re somewhat rebellious in nature; cyclists choose to ride in a large group at rush hour to assert our rights to the streets. Critical Mass’ unofficial credo is “We’re not blocking traffic. We are traffic.”

The new LAPD ride-along announcement was not explicity in response to this youtube video which documented inappropriate police use of force at the May Critical Mass ride, but it’s not difficult to see the connection.

Since the memo came out, there’s been quite a bit of speculation on how the next Los Angeles Critical Mass rides will be. It seems pretty clear that the complexion of the ride is likely to change with uniformed officers participating. Yesterday, in a story on the LAPD memo, LAist stated:

…major change to the ride could come, and it may not make some cyclists happy. With the LAPD’s support, the event could make many others — perhaps families? — feel comfortable enough to try out Critical Mass, growing the number of riders and making this an ad hoc rolling cicLAvia.  

While we appreciate the link and we understand that police presence may well change the character of Critical Mass rides and attract a different, perhaps less confrontational group of bicyclists, we’re not sure about the notion of a “rolling cicLAvia.”

Even a family-friendly rolling street closure is not a CicLAvia. Many Los Angeles bicyclists are familiar with rolling street closure rides hosted by Councilmember Tom LaBonge (including ones coming up this summer), former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and others. CicLAvia will be a very different event than these. Here are a few differences:

  • CicLAvia has no direction. It’s more like a park than it is like a ride or a race. There’s no starting point or finish line. Folks can join in at any point and ride in any direction.
  • CicLAvia opens the street for lots of different folks, not just bicyclists. When the CicLAvia street is free of cars, people do bike, but they also walk, run, dance, hang out, play, eat, and much more.
  • CicLAvia is a fully permitted event with a route planned, permitted and publicized in advance.

 What do you think? Is there such a thing as a rolling CicLAvia?

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Evan  |  June 17, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Agreed–the two are entirely different, with different purposes.

  • 2. Ross Hirsch  |  June 18, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Of course to those familiar with the concept of ciclovias that have spouted up across the globe, there doesn’t seem to be anything “rolling” about it–at least that seems to be my understanding from the limited exposure I’ve had to the concept (which I think is, in no uncertain terms, awesome and props to those involved here for the vision and persistence)–they are temporary street closures that allow people to enjoy, celebrate, walk, bike, run, eat, and hang out in this public space (streets) that since the rise of the automobile has pretty much been monopolized by and relegated solely to accommodate that mode of transportation.

    I can understand why the ciclovia (and CicLAvia) people don’t like the confusion of the budding term (budding at least here in LA). But I don’t think the LAist article was making any serious pronouncements about what the a ciclovia is or isn’t. And I’m not sure that any irreversible widespread systemic confusion will ensue. I kinda liked LAist’s cross-over journalistic phraseology–even accepting that it’s technically inconsistent with the historical understanding of what a ciclovia is. It was kinda fashion-forward. But, no, I do not plan on continuing calling whatever incarnation LA Critical Mass turns into from here on out a “rolling ciclovia.”

    • 3. Joe Linton  |  June 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

      Agreed, my friend, Ross. LAist was justified in using CicLAvia as they did. It gave us a chance to dialog and educate about what to expect at CicLAvia.

      Now if we can just cause some of that “irreversible widespread system confusion” (preferably about the whole notion of car dominance) then we’ll be in business!


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