It was a beautiful fall Sunday six months ago exactly, on 10/10/10, when I crossed from Germany into the Netherlands. The wind was at my back, the sun in my face, and the roads were full of cyclists. A young couple held hands, headed into town on a date, an older couple chatted amiably, children and parents — all of Holland, it seemed — were out enjoying the day. It was also the day, as it happened, that Los Angeles’ first CicLAvia went down. I was sorry to miss it, but if 10/10/10 looked anything like the streets of Los Angeles looked today, on 04/10/11, you might say that a little bit of Holland has arrived.
Of course, CicLAvia has its roots in Columbia, not Holland, where every Sunday (and holidays) the streets are given over to human-powered traffic. The first one was held there in 1976, and if I may be a little snarky, I’d have to ask — why did it take THIRTY-FOUR years to make its way north?
CicLAvia is wonderful! It’s a celebration without purpose, a party without cause. And all you have to do is shut down some streets to automobiles and tell people, “Enjoy yourself.” How many times today did I stop in the middle of some five-lane expressway just to admire a bit of Angeleno architecture, or photograph a mural? How many times did other people wave and say hello? How many families spent quality time together, soaking in the joy of simple things? How many children, that rarest of cyclist on our streets, did I see?
I had to snicker at the typically curmudgeonly comments posted below a Times story on the event. This “complete waste of time” and “laughable” celebration of life somehow drew thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, all with a synchronicity of purpose, to enjoy their city. Prose can’t do it justice, even poetry may miss the mark. It’s only in the experience itself that one can understand. And if rumor has it correct — that the mayor wants to increase the number to one per month by next year — we’re going to have plenty of opportunities. I can’t wait!