Editor’s note: This article is authored by Kylie Walzak, Janet K. Miller and Greta Anderson, original members of the Tucson Bicycle Belles. The Tucson Bicycle Belles are a diverse group of female bicycle enthusiasts who aim to share the joy of cycling with other Tucson women by hosting low-stress rides coupled with fun events and short educational workshops. Find us on Facebook.
After the rainy weather left us feeling shorted after Tucson’s Cyclovia earlier this spring, we decided to join the fun in Los Angeles for CicLAvia. We rolled by train to the big city and joined 100,000 other participants on Sunday, April 15. The route, which has remained mostly unchanged over the last four events, covers ten miles of the city and connects many interesting neighborhoods into one huge block party.
The train trip was an adventure in itself and it’s a great way to travel with bikes. For a small fee you can box up your bike and load it on the train like luggage, and only a few small bits of disassembly are necessary (pedal wrench and allen wrench will do!). We left around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday after a drink at Maynard’s and slept (or not) on the train. We awoke to day break in the Palm Desert with snow-capped mountains in the background.
Upon arrival in LA, we were eager to reassemble our bikes and ride! We were met at the station by Ann Chanecka, a Tucson Belle, and Amy Turnbull from Los Angeles. CicLAvia started just a few pushes from the train station and we got there just in time to watch Mayor Villaraigosa start his ride.
Unfortunately, we just missed the big news announcement of the day that almost upstaged CicLAvia itself. Villaraigosa had just announced that Los Angeles will receive the country’s largest bike share program in the next 18-24 months with 4,000 bikes spread out over 400 stations at a cost of $16 million funded entirely by a private company. There were lots of camera crews around for that and we managed to crash the LA times newscast (Check us out at 1:46-1:49. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0416-ciclavia-20120416,0,375790.story ) Because we wore our homemade “Tucson Bicycle Belles” T-shirts, lots of people welcomed us to LA and asked if we had biked there. (Our beaux Troy and Paulus wore dapper threads and a “Tucson Bicycle Balls” shirt made its appearance. Those gentlemen looked good!)
There is so much to say about the ride itself and the fun stuff on the route. There were intersection art installations, food truck hubs (yum!), solar-powered DJ stations with music pumping, lowrider bikes, games, bunny costumes, rollerblading dancing fashion savants, a minister blessing bikes, bubbles, kids on skates and tricycles, hipsters on fixies, dogs on bikes, people lounging on astroturf in the middle of roundabouts, tall bikes, bike clubs, bike traffic (bumper-to-bumper!), and new and old friends along the route. The TBB added to the quirkiness by spoonbombing, putting some fresh BICAS stickers at key locations, and keeping up the vibe with our monster grins and out-of-towner giddiness.
Late in the afternoon the central hub of the ride was gridlocked with bike traffic. It took three light changes to get through the intersections, but it had a celebratory vibe unlike any automotive traffic jam. Overheard was the cutest, freckly-faced little girl proclaim “Us bikes RULE this place today! I LIKE this kind of traffic!”
Not surprisingly, but worth mentioning, not one of us witnessed any collisions during our four-hour long bike ride and many beginners were out struggling to gain momentum with that first, wobbly pedal stroke up a steep hill. The CicLAvia event organizers had great signage reminding people to take it slow. There was a real sense of how important it was to look out for your neighbor and take care riding around slower riders and pedestrians.
In that crowd of 100,000 cyclists in a far off city, we were amazed to casually bump into at least four people we knew. Coincidence? Not really; when we’re out on our bikes riding together and talking to one another we realize how interconnected we are.
Alas, after four short hours of riding that flew by like 45 minutes, we scurried back to the station, reboxed our bikes, and boarded the train home to Tucson.
We watched the sunset over the Mojave desert from the observation car on the train, sipping delicious adult beverages and reminiscing fondly about the art, bikes, and people we shared the day with. We returned inspired to spread the joy and make Tucson’s future Cyclovias even better and more frequent! There really is nothing better than car-free streets, good friends, a bicycle, and glorious sunny weather.
Check out more images from the trip.