(Ed. Note: LADOT Bike Blog is proud to introduce another author to the blog, Oliver Hou. Oliver is a fellow USC planning student and Student Professional Worker at LADOT Bikeways)
New York’s Ciclovía
With CicLAvia on the horizon, I’d like to share my recent opportunity in New York City to experience Summer Streets, their version of Bogotá, Columbia’s extremely successful Ciclovia. For three Saturdays in August, the city shuts down Park Avenue between 72nd Street and Downtown, to vehicular traffic. This car-free zone allows cyclists and pedestrians alike to traverse much of Manhattan – starting with the various loops and paths within Central Park, down one of the grandest boulevards in the world, and then over the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path.
I have to say there aren’t many experiences like it – while it’s one thing to tour the Mid City area of New York from the overcrowded sidewalks or in those open-air busses, it felt that much more empowering cruising down Park Ave and looping around on the ramps circling Grand Central Station without having to deal with obnoxious traffic.
An Event for Everyone
I was impressed with the broad appeal of Summer Streets. As expected you had the hardcore cyclists and runners, but it was also very encouraging to see entire families enjoying their weekend on bikes. The organizers had set up pit stops for people to take a break and enjoy delicious NYC tap water, get free helmet fittings, or participate in some group dancing. There were even a couple dumpster pools to cool off in!
My other comment is about how smoothly the City ran the whole operation. It took not only traffic officers to secure and block off all of the intersections, but also many volunteers to safely hold back pedestrians at the designated vehicular crossings. Equally impressive was the way in which people who were not participating in the event handled the added burden. A Saturday in New York City is still a pretty busy day, especially during the summer. Yet even those who were stuck behind a barricade or waiting at the vehicle crossings caught wind of the contagious, cheery attitude of everyone involved with Summer Streets. Perhaps it’s because this is the third year that the City has been doing it, but I think they’ve got this event down pat. With this experience behind me and my expectations high for CicLAvia, I can only look forward to 10/10/10 and hope Los Angeles can pull off an event that becomes a Southern California tradition.
All photographs were snapped by the author – for more pictures of Summer Streets, check out the LADOT Bike Blog Flickr page. Oliver Hou is an Assistant Bicycle Coordinator with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. He is also a Masters of Planning candidate in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California. Upon graduation he hopes to continue working in the field of transportation planning, preferably with alternative forms such as cycling and transit.