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CicLAvía: Montando bicicleta en Los Angeles (en español)

A las 5:00 de la tarde, un lunes a finales Marzo de este año, Christine Ramirez, 55, fue arrollada por un carro cuando montaba su bicicleta cerca de su casa en Pasadena sufriendo fractura de dos costilla y lastimaduras en la mayor parte de su abdomen. “Yo estaba usando mi casco, esperé por la luz que cambiara a verde y miré a ambos lados antes de cruzar la intersección,” Ramirez dijo. Pero a pesar de todas sus precauciones, ella no tuvo tiempo de reaccionar al carro que iba a doblar derecha y no paró, lo cual la mantuvo en cama por dos semanas.

Afortunadamente, al menos por un día, Ramirez y todos los demás Angelinos no se tuvieron que preocupar de los peligros de los carros. El domingo 10 de Abril del 2011 Los Angeles tuvo la segunda CicLAvía, un evento de calles sin autos que le da a las personas una oportunidad de disfrutar de su ciudad desde el suelo en vez que desde sus carros. De 10:00 AM hasta las 3:00 PM las calles del centro de Los Angeles estuvieron cerradas a todo vehiculo motorizado y abiertas para bicicletas, triciclos, sillas de ruedas, o simplemente para caminar.

El defensor del ciclismo Bobby Gadda fue el primero que trajo el concepto de CicLAvía a Los Angeles en el 2008 después de una visita a Bogotá, Colombia donde más de 70 millas de calles están sin carro todos los domingos. El había notado cuan desagradables  son para las personas las calles de Los Angeles y fue inspirado inmediatamente por la ciclovía de 35 años en Bogotá. “Esto realmente cambió la cultura de la ciudad e hizo de ella un lugar más humano para vivir,” dijo Gadda.

Gadda recibió inmediatamente apoyo y colaboración de Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition y poco después del Alcalde Antonio Villaraigosa. El pasado mes de Octubre Los Angeles celebró la primera CicLAvía con 7.5 millas de calles libres de carros desde Boyle Heights hasta el este de Hollywood. Siguiendo la misma ruta, exactamente seis meses después, el segundo evento de CicLAvía fue aun mayor, con un estimado de 130,000 participantes de acuerdo a KCET, pero cada participante pudo personalizar su propia experiencia.

Ross Bernet, estudiante de cuarto año de Ciencia Ambiental en UCLA y Michelle Oyewole, estudiante de cuarto año de Comunicaciones, junto a otros 15 estudiantes más de UCLA, fueron en sus bicicletas a CicLAvía desde UCLA, un recorrido de 10 millas. Para Bernet, CicLAvía es invaluable por la seguridad en el espacio que esta provee. “La mayor parte del tiempo que uno está andando en bicicleta en Los Angeles, uno va solo. Hay muchos carros y eso se siente peligroso,” dijo Bernet. Oyewole aprecia el ambiente de comunidad que se percibe. “Es una oportunidad de ver Los Angeles como normalmente no la verías, con las calles libres de carros y todos andando en bicicleta juntos,” dijo Oyewole.

Para otros CicLAvía es un evento familiar. Para Martín Puerta, de 42 años, residente en Boyle Heights, padre de 4 hijos, de edades 14, 10, 6 y 2, CicLAvía le da a sus hijos la oportunidad de ver y aprender acerca de Los Angeles. “Aquí ellos tienen la proteccion de la Policia, quienes cierran las calles y no hay posibilidad de que sean lastimados,” dijo Puerta. Por lo menos hay una cosa de la que Puerta está seguro. “Todos tenemos el derecho a usar las calles para cualquier evento. No debemos continuar pensando que solo el carro tiene derecho a las calles,” él dijo.

Aunque el verdadero propósito de CicLAvía es disfrutarla, los participantes pudieron compartir muchas actividades a lo largo del recorrido en Abril, incluyendo visitar museos como el Japanese American National Museum y disfrutar de camiones de comidas como las de The Surfer Taco. Chivas USA tuvo un puesto para patear pelotas donde el co-capitán Major League Soccer All-Star y antiguo alumno de UCLA Jimmy Conrad estuvo, firmando autógrafos y conversando con fanáticos. También hubo presentaciones de bailes, juegos de pistolas de agua y antiguas rutas de bicicletas.

Lo que más se destacó en ambas CicLAvías fue el constante juego de dodgeball organizado por el World Dodgeball Society el cual proporcionó entretenimiento así como una forma para socializar con otros Angelinos. Agregándole que Lance Armstrong atendió a la CicLAvía y habló de los beneficios a la salud y al medio ambiente que proporciona el andar en bicicleta, mencionando como ésto promueve el ejercicio y reduce las emisiones de gas que tanto afectan la atmósfera.

La opinión general acerca de CicLAvía es clara. Los Angeles se ha enamorado y quiere más de esto.Ya hay planeados dos eventos más en 2011 y más para el 2012. Esto puede no parar ahí. Muchos, incluyendo a Gadda, tienen la esperanza de que CicLAvía se convierta en una forma de vida. En camino largo la meta de CicLAvía es crear una cadena de calles libres de carros através de Los Angeles, conectando fisicamente sus muchas compactas y diversas areas.

Los Angeles justamente debe obtener sus deseos. El Alcalde Villaraigosa, quien ha prometido dedicar 1680 millas de LA para camino de bicicletas, está detrás de ese esfuerzo 100%. “CicLAvía es una oportunidad,” dijo Villaraigosa. “En una ciudad adicta al automobil con un solo pasajero, nosotros debemos agarrar la bicicleta […] y reclamar nuestros barrios. Eso es lo que CicLAvía representa.”

CicLAvia: Biking in Los Angeles

PHOTO: Lucia Prieto

At 5:05 PM on a Monday afternoon in late March this year, Christine Ramirez, 55, was hit by a car while riding her bike near her home in Pasadena, fracturing two ribs and bruising the right side of her abdomen. “I was wearing my helmet, I waited for the light to turn green, and I looked both ways before crossing into the intersection,” Ramirez said. Despite all her safety precautions, she didn’t have time to react to the car that was rolling through a right turn, which put her on bed rest for two weeks.

Fortunately, for at least one day, Ramirez and all other Angelenos didn’t have to worry about the dangers of cars. On Sunday, April 10, 2011, Los Angeles celebrated its second CicLAvía, a car-free streets event that gives people an opportunity to enjoy their city from the ground instead of from their cars. From 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, the streets of downtown Los Angeles were closed to all motorized vehicles and open for bicycles, tricycles, wheelchairs, or simply walking.

Cycling advocate Bobby Gadda first brought the concept of CicLAvía to Los Angeles in 2008 after a visit to Bogotá, Colombia, where over 70 miles of streets are car-free every Sunday. He had noticed how unpleasant LA streets are for people and was immediately inspired by Bogota’s 35-year-old ciclovía, the Spanish word for bike path. “It really changed the culture of the city and made it a more humane place to live,” said Gadda.

Gadda received immediate support and collaboration from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and, soon after, from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Last October, Los Angeles celebrated the first CicLAvía with 7.5 miles of car-free streets from Boyle Heights to East Hollywood.

Following the same route exactly six months later, CicLAvía’s second event was even bigger, with an estimated 130,000 participants, according to KCET. Still, each participant was able to personalize their experience.

Ross Bernet, a UCLA 4th-year environmental science student, and Michelle Oyewole, a UCLA 4th-year communications student, along with 15 other UCLA students, rode their bikes to CicLAvía from UCLA, a 10-mile ride. For Bernet, CicLAvía is invaluable because of the safe space it provides. “Most of the time you’re biking in LA, you’re by yourself. There’s so many cars, and it’s dangerous and it seems sketchy,” said Bernet. Oyewole appreciates the sense of community. “It’s a chance to see LA how you wouldn’t normally, the streets free of cars, everyone biking together,” Oyewole said.

For others, CicLAvía is a family event. Martin Puerta, a 42-year-old resident of Boyle Heights, is a father of four, ages 14, 10, 6 and 2. CicLAvía provides his children the chance to see and learn about Los Angeles. “Here they have the care of the police, they close the streets, and there won’t be a possibility of getting hurt,” said Puerta. There’s at least one thing Puerta is sure of. “We all have the right to use the street for any event. We shouldn’t continue to think that only the car has the right to the street,” he said.

The real purpose of CicLAvía, though, is just having fun. Participants could partake in numerous activities along the route in April, including visiting museums like the Japanese American National Museum and eating at food trucks like The Surfer Taco. Chivas USA had a goal-kicking booth where co-captain Major League Soccer All-Star and UCLA alumnus Jimmy Conrad was signing autographs and talking with fans. There were also dance performances, squirt gun fights, and historic bike tours.

A major highlight at both CicLAvías was the on-going pickup dodgeball game, hosted by the World Dodgeball Society, that provided entertainment as well as a way to socialize with fellow Angelenos. In addition, Lance Armstrong attended CicLAvía and spoke about cycling’s health and environmental benefits, noting how it promotes exercise and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The overall opinion of CicLAvía is clear: Los Angeles loves it and wants more. There are already two more events scheduled in 2011 and more in 2012. And it may not stop there. Many, including Gadda, hope that CicLAvía becomes a lifestyle. One long-term goal of CicLAvía is to create a permanent network of car-free streets throughout Greater Los Angeles, physically connecting its many dense and diverse areas.

Los Angeles just might get its wish. Mayor Villaraigosa, who has promised to get Los Angeles 1680 miles of bike paths, is behind the effort 100 percent. “CicLAvía is an opportunity,” Villaraigosa said. “In a city addicted to the single-passenger automobile, we ought to get on a bike […] and reclaim our neighborhoods. That’s what CicLAvía is all about.”

UCLA Students Reach Out to Latino Cyclists

by Jaqueline Vergara Amezquita

In the busy streets of downtown Los Angeles, you can see them whiz by on their bicycles before the sun rises and then again just as it begins to hide under the horizon.

Tackling the auto-congested avenues and boulevards of L.A.’s major streets day in and day out, the city’s Latino riders rely on their pedals for work, errands, play and all that is in between.

They do not ride because Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” inspired them to reduce their carbon footprint or because they believe in their civic right to “reclaim” public space. Cycling for them is no doubt a joy, but they mostly ride out of necessity.

The majority of them are low-income, immigrant workers who depend on their bicycles mainly because of affordability. Most would not be allowed to operate a vehicle even if they wanted to due to their immigration status.

Allison Mannos, an Asian American Studies student and senior at UCLA, noticed that although Los Angeles is beginning to witness a growing cyclist movement, Latino riders unfortunately take no part in the advocacy and political dialogue.

“It was important to me to reach out to Latino cyclists because they often are left out of discussions about bettering communities and bikes,” says Mannos.

An avid cyclist and transportation activist, Mannos first learned about the challenges faced by this group after reading a 2004 study published by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC).

The study found that Latino cyclists lacked access to bicycle safety education and information about their legal rights on the road. Moreover, at the base of the problem was the absence of basic safety gear, such as lights and helmets.

After being hired by the LACBC in early 2009, Mannos jumped on the opportunity to create a new campaign that would help bridge the disconnection between the Latino cyclist population and the larger bicycle activist network.

What begun as a simple bicycle light and safety information distribution effort back in January of 2009 has expanded to include curriculum-centered monthly educational workshops and weekly bike mechanic and maintenance sessions held at La Bici Digna bike repair shop inside the Instituto De Educacion Popular del Sur de California Downtown Community Job Center.

The City of Lights, or Ciudad de Luces, campaign has diversified the cyclist advocacy movement by reaching out to Latino cyclists housed in day-laborer worker centers in downtown L.A.

At the forefront of City of Lights’ educational component is third-year sociology student Andy Rodriguez. “Our goal is to not only teach bike safety and legal rights workshops, but to have the guys spearhead their own culturally-educational bike classes and rides” says Rodriguez.

Implementing popular education methodology fused with interactive activities, the educational classes inform day-laborer Latino cyclists about safety, traffic laws and cyclist rights.

Led by two certified bicycle mechanics from the Bicycle Kitchen, a non profit organization that spreads and fosters bicycle expertise, the weekly maintenance and repair classes motivate students to build on the mechanics skills they already possess, stressing that they also learn from each other.

Enthusiasm for cycling runs high at the day-laborer sites visited by City of Lights. “Promoting bike-use is good. It benefits all in many aspects. It is 100% healthy and it does not contaminate”, says Latino cyclist Cesar Herrera, who is a day-laborer at the Central American Resource Center.

With the leadership of Mannos and Rodriguez, a more inclusive and diverse bicycle movement in Los Angeles looks pretty promising.