CicLAvia and Festival of Books

Well, I’m exhausted, and so am certainly not going to give you a full report on everything right now. I hope to do another post with my usual time-lapse video of the ride some time later (but soon). They are uploading from my camera right now. All I will give you right now is a shot of the crowds at a typical stop along the route. Also, I will say a few words that will probably get me into trouble.


The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA. And it is not just for all the environmental reasons, to do with energy use, air quality, and so forth. I can go on about those but I won’t. See earlier posts for that sort of thing. It is also because many people get to properly see their city in these events, which is really important. You can’t see it from a car – and I don’t just mean all the buildings and wonderful hidden gems I sometimes talk about, but I mean the other people who live in the city with you. That’s a big deal, and an important one for when it comes to how we all work and live together. I’m also very excited that the organizers tried this cross-city route, linking East and West, getting West side based people involved in the fun. And overall I enjoyed today a lot… I love the event and will keep coming and keep supporting it.


But. Yeah, I’m going to say something negative, but only in the spirit of support for the effort. I also know how annoying it is to hear someone make remarks about an event’s organization when you’re an organizer who has done the actual hard work of organizing and maybe did the best you could with difficult choices to make… So sorry about that. Anyway, here goes:

But.. there were far more people than the event could really support, in both space and time:

Space-wise because there’s just not enough space if only half of Venice boulevard is used for the event, and certainly not if so very many of the major cross streets were running their usual traffic light cycle – this produced huge tailbacks of vast amounts of cyclists who then had to crawl slowly through the junction more often than not, pushing their bikes instead of riding them. I worry that this will discourage a lot of people from coming back – the spirit of the event that people seem to talk about most (form previous events) is that freedom from traffic jams, the freedom to fly free on your bike in no traffic. Well, that lovely picture I have at the top is great to see in terms of the amount of good will and participation… but it is actually mostly a picture of a huge traffic jam. (Click to view it larger and see the wonderful crowd going off to the horizon, and note that it is not the fun jam of the start, or the party at the end, but a fairly typical stop along the way.) There needs to be either fewer stops negotiated with the city, or allow more of them to skip several light cycles to let the cyclists not build up so much that they effectively cannot ride. Jams like this can happen a few times and be sort of novel and even fun (as in previous events) but they need to be the exception rather than the rule. Today it was the other way around.

Time-wise because there’s no way that people are going to be able to get from Downtown to Venice and back between 10:00am (when the event kicks off) and 3:00pm (when the streets go back to normal) if things are so congested. It took us (I cycled with a friend and colleague, Krzysztof who also has a Brompton) from 10:30am to about 1:30pm to get to Venice. Maybe longer. This was due to the aforementioned congestion caused by not enough room and too many car-traffic-priority stops. So a lot of people ended up on the wrong side of town at 3:00pm. For many of us, that’s fine as we cycle in the city all the time, but for the inexperienced cyclists this event is (in part) designed to attract, that’s not ideal. Could it start earlier in the day, or go later in the day, maybe by about 2 hours? (I know that not everyone wants to do the whole route and back, and some people only plan to do small chunks local to them, but actually many hope to do the whole thing and really go outside their local area and explore. It is really hard to do in the time given at the speed the congestion allows.)

I got back East by avoiding the congested cicLAvia route altogether on the return and using some of the splendid other routes (like the Ballona Creek bikeway – thanks Krzysztof!) to navigate back to Culver City and then jumped on the Expo line to get back to USC to see some things at the LA Times Festival of Books. And as I said in my previous post: Why are these two splendid events overlapping? That seems odd to me. Given that they were overlapping, the opportunity for the two events to have had some major connectivity was lost, I’d say, by not having some signage of some sort at the point where cyclists could have veered off down to USC at the closest point of the ride, after it came off Alvarado on to Hoover before going along Venice. The bike paths leading from there the relatively short way down Hoover to USC could have been a pleasant way to pop down to the Festival of Books, if more people knew about it… Seems like a missed opportunity. Oh well. Maybe next year. (I mentioned that Aaron Payley had said to me that they clashed with the Festival of Books because they wanted to help bring cyclists to it. I guess he was joking after all?)

Anyway, I will stop here by saying that I am sure that the cicLAvia organizers had a hard enough time negotiating what they were able to get for today’s event, so I am grateful that they got what they got. I also know that they are probably looking to learn from the event to make future ones even better. So this is why I am writing this… to point out things that I observed, and to note that while people were having fun, there was a lot of remarking about how congested things were, and how many people trying it for the first time might not return. I hope they do. I hope some of these things get fixed, and I hope that they are announced as being fixed as the publicity for the next event builds up again so that those people will come again. They certainly won’t come again if it means trading one kind of traffic jam for another one.

(I will try to have a little about the Festival of Books tomorrow. And the time-lapse video too.) [Update: Time lapse video here.]


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