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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.”

The End of Public Education

In the midst of a crumbling state budget, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and the Board of Education accepted that they could not realistically save failing schools. Early last summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) proposed the Public School Choice plan which will relinquish LAUSD administrative and financial control of over 200 schools. In addition, new multimillion-dollar school sites will also be available for bidding.

Schools which have consistently underperformed in state tests and demonstrated drastically low Academic Progress Index scores have been identified by the LAUSD as focus schools and will be privatized by an outside group.

The task of saving our schools will fall upon small charter school programs and other non-profit groups such as GreenDot, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and Synergy Academies among others. Over 617,000 students are relying on the LAUSD for an education this 2009-2010 academic year.

Charter schools and non-profits will need to bridge a large demographic and educational divide in the affected areas of South and East Los Angeles as well as the San Fernando Valley. Overcrowding, coupled with a high numbers of English as a second language learners makes overhauling schools in these areas an incredibly urgent and complex task. The new administration for these schools will need to find a way to address the educational needs and deficiencies of the existing student population while integrating their own students, faculty and new curriculum.

Despite the possibilities that this offers, there are lingering uncertainties. Can outside groups save our schools? More importantly, how long will it take?

The application process started in late October and final decisions will be made by the Board of Education in February. Cortines released a statement on Jan. 15 in which he stressed that LAUSD is “encouraging input from all community members who support [their] public schools including parents, guardians, students, teachers and other LAUSD employees.” The application process is detailed, but the final word will rest upon the Board of Education.

Much will remain uncertain within the coming months, however what will be certain is that the takeover among schools will likely be messy, leaving hundreds of teachers unemployed. Whether or not charter schools can effectively pick up the pieces LAUSD leaves behind, students will be the first to feel the resounding effects of this change.

Plans will be available Tuesday, Jan. 19 at the LAUSD website www.lausd.net

Previously printed Fall 2009