Some Valley residents may groan upon learning that portions of main roads Ventura Blvd. and Lankershim Blvd. will be closed to automobile traffic during the CicLAvia event on March 22, but the initiative, which started in 2008, is working to change “people’s attitudes, behaviors, and the public conversation regarding alternative transportation.”
It may seem like an impossible mission in a city where the single-passenger car rules, but increasing the awareness and prevalence of alternate modes of transportation could very well be the first step in creating a more harmonious traffic environment. Changes in attitude and awareness can make way for action - and improving bike infrastructure has many benefits, including increased safety for everyone and reduced travel times for cars. As North Hollywood resident Phil Obaza, 30, says, “the safer [to cycle] an area gets, the more I feel inclined to ride” - and his, and others’, decision to ride can mean a shorter commute for those who are sticking to cars.
Obaza, a Television Research Manager at Variety, has been getting around Los Angeles exclusively by bicycle for over four years.
“Los Angeles has really come a long way in the last several years with cycling,” says Obaza. “The beach cities (like Santa Monica and Venice) and many neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley have gone to great lengths to make their communities more bike-friendly - adding lanes, racks, and buffers from traffic/on-street parking.”
Obaza has found that cycling in the city “really immerses you into the various L.A. neighborhoods and allows you to see and notice things you might otherwise miss if you are driving.” Liana Marr, 32, a Valley Village health care account manager, agrees: “Sometimes we just move too fast in life, and it's nice to slow down a bit.” Obaza also cites exercise as a benefit, and says that cycling can be less stressful than driving in traffic-congested Los Angeles.
Those passionate about cycling, like Obaza and Marr - who says automobile drivers who don’t pay attention to cyclists can’t keep her off the road - are not deterred by slow-moving progress as the city adjusts to demands for increased cycling safety. Not everyone is as brave as Obaza and Marr, however, and events like CicLAvia can bring out those cyclists who are a little more shy to pedal the city. According to Marr, over 4000 people and counting have registered online for the event. Marr, who has been cycling in LA for 4 years, sees CicLAvia as a “gateway for people to be more open to cyclists, more aware, and courteous,” and when people choose “to cycle, to walk, to rollerblade - whatever it is that doesn't involve a motor," we can all enjoy less environmental impact.
It also gives cyclists worried about safety an opportunity to branch out. While the Orange Line Bike Path provides a fun, safe environment for a leisurely bike trip across the Valley year-round, CicLAvia opens up otherwise car-dominated routes for motor-less travel two to three times a year. As Obaza says, “[It’s] always amazing seeing thousands of cyclists sharing the road and riding together down a major street.” Marr adds, “The beauty of CicLAvia is being somewhere you've been tens of hundreds of thousands of times before, and gaining a new perspective.”