Creating “Public Space” Through a Traveling Block Party in L.A.

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March 6, 2012; Source: Southern California Public Radio

CicLAvia is a nonprofit encouraging healthy and environmentally-conscious “traveling block parties” in Los Angeles in which ten miles of street are shut down to car traffic for the community. The events have been very successful and more than 100,000 people are estimated to have attended the free street festivals. CicLAvia hopes to eradicate the urban sprawl environment of L.A. while welcoming participants to walk the streets and enjoy the neighborhoods, architecture, and fellow residents that frequently go unnoticed in a car.

“Air pollution is awful and childhood obesity is epidemic,” cicLAvia member Jonathan Parfrey explained in the Los Angeles Times. “But building new parks for people to get out of their cars and exercise can be prohibitively expensive. We want to create public space using the infrastructure we already have—our roads.”

CicLAvia has launched a Kickstarter campaign in support of their upcoming April 15th event, with a goal of collecting $12,000 by April 5th. Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects which has become a popular method for crowdsourcing project funding. Board member Heidi Zeller explained that the $12,000 goal is not as much a financial necessity as it is an effort to raise community involvement.

“We want all Angelenos to feel like cicLAvia belongs to them,” Zeller emphasized, and the campaign offers a personal investment in cicLAvia’s mission and success. Organizers of CicLAvia hope to expand the number of events to four in 2013, and they note that the events have taken place with support from the mayor’s office, the City Council, transportation department officials, and police and fire departments.

The nonprofit was inspired by the Colombian “Ciclovía” movement, which originated approximately 35 years ago in Bogotá, Colombia. In some areas, the events, a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets, take place every Sunday and exclude car traffic from as much as 80 miles of roadway. Now these pedestrian-friendly events occur throughout Latin America and in the United States. –Aine Creedon