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Popular Car-Free Event, CicLAvia, Eyes Santa Monica

Organizers of the big bash that closes miles of streets in the city of Los Angeles are planning Westside expansion.

CicLAvia, an event that closes Los Angeles streets to cars so residents can walk, bike, socialize and celebrate the city, is pedaling its way toward the Westside in 2013.  

In a community meeting held at the Santa Monica Civic Center on Tuesday afternoon, about 40 people—including members of the Santa Monica and Culver City communities, city officials and representatives from CicLAvia—discussed potential routes, as well as other administrative details, for the event.  

"The event last night in Santa Monica has begun in other parts of the county as well," said Aaron Paley, co-founder of the nonprofit CicLAvia, in a phone interview.  

Inspired by Ciclovía, the original weekly street closure event in Bogota, Colombia, CicLAvia began as a biannual event in South and East LA two years ago. 

"A bunch of people, who weren’t all bicyclists, came together to really think about how to bring this idea—an idea that has been around for 38 years—to Los Angeles,” Paley said. 

“Together, we did a lot of hard work and a lot of things that ended up culminating in a creation of a nonprofit that culminated in a relationship with City of LA and Mayor, which led to the first four CicLAvias,” he said.  

According to Paley, the number of participants increased from about 50,000 the first event to 150,000 people in the most recent event. Following the event’s popularity and success in LA, Paley said the nonprofit has been discussing adding different parts of the county, including Santa Monica.  

In the long run, Paley said the nonprofit aims to hold CicLAVia six to eight times a year, in which each time the event would be held in a different city in the county.  

Cynthia Rose, the director and co-founder of Santa Monica SPOKE, a local chapter of the LA County Bicycle Coalition, said the organization has been advocating for CicLAvia’s expansion.  

“SPOKE has coordinated rides to CicLAvia every CicLAvia so far,” she said in an interview. “We start at the Santa Monica Pier and every time, there has been a bigger and bigger group of people. Last time by the time we got all our different groups together, I think we had 100 people.”  

Rose said having the event closer to Santa Monica would be a great advantage to the community. It would help "demonstrate how wonderful cycling and alternative transportation is,” she said.

Like all large projects and events, CicLAvia’s expansion poses challenges.

"City approval and raising the money are two of the biggest challenges,” Paley said.   In the past, CicLAvia has worked closely with the City of Los Angeles, which has helped pay for the city affairs portion of the event. However, Paley said the nonprofit anticipates paying more for the expansion because cities operate differently.  

“It’s looking as if we’re going to need to not just pay for 50 percent of it which is what we’ve been doing to date,” he said. “Now we have to double our fundraising efforts.”  

So what’s the next step?   “We’re going to be meeting with each city and trying to figure out what hoops we need to go through in order to get the permits necessary to do this kind of event in that city,” Paley said.  

“And on top of that, we’re going to need to figure out how much the event will cost and how it will be paid for,” he added. “We’d love for CicLAvia’s [expansion] to happen by April, but we have a lot to do to make it happen by then.”  

However, while the date and cost are up in the air, Paley said one thing is for sure: “[CicLAvia] is a transformative event - it really changes the way people perceive the place they live.”  

“I think it’s a revolution for Southern California and how people think about where they are,” he added.  

For more information on how to participate or donate, visit CicLAvia’s website or Facebook page and sign up for email blasts and notifications.  

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