Environmentally conscious 21st century Angelenos rejoice! You and your family can experience a carless LA. Grab a stroller, bike, blades, scooter or skateboard:  it’s time for the pedestrian-friendly, car-free, wheel-y fun celebration that is CicLAvia, taking place this fall on October 5 in downtown Los Angeles.

As their website touts, CicLAvia “temporarily removes cars from LA streets…and fills them with smiles.” Originally started 30 years ago in Colombia as ciclovia, it launched in 2011 in our fair city, growing to multiple events in 2014 with more planned for future years that branch out beyond the city center.

Where do we go?
The upcoming October 5th event is called the “Heart of LA” tour and takes place downtown.  It’s not the same downtown route that CicLAvia has traveled in the past – this fall it will branch out into new areas like Echo Park, the Historic Broadway Theater District,  Boyle Heights all the way to East Los Angeles.   Riders (and walkers) of all ages can join in anywhere along the route, though it’s easiest to start near an endpoint.  A wheel-free walking-only zone is located this year in the Broadway Theater Districs at Broadway and 9th St., if your little one isn’t quite up to biking or triking with the crowds.  There will also be a kids zone at the East LA Civic Center and you can stop in at the Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture, which is being held in Grand Park.  A complete map is available online at ciclavia.org.

And how do we get there?
Getting there can be half the fun, if you live close enough to take an early morning bike ride.   Load up the minivan – or if you’re nearby, board Metro to transport you to the route.  Both buses and subways allow bikes at no extra charge – be sure to study the guidelines before embarking on your journey:  get the 411 at metro.net/bikes.

Remeber, CicLAvia is for everyone, but peewee peddle-pushers just learning to ride may need extra help, and this isn’t the best place to practice balancing.  That’s where tandem attachments and bike trailers are magic.  Pedestrians are welcome as well, as are strollers (hey, they’ve got wheels!).  The organizers of CicLAvie just ask that if you’re going slow, stay to the right, for safety’s sake.

Helmet, check. Air pump, check. Water, check. Sunscreen, check.
Safety first.  There are lots of happy helpers along the route, many passing out water or offering to top off tires in need of air (or just give encouragement).  To minimize stress and max-out fun, here are our tried-and-true tips to ensure a memorable experience you’ll soon want to repeat:

  • Fill tires beforehand: Flats are no fun.  Pop-up repair spots are hard to predict, though über-friendly organizers are strategically sprinkled along the course, ready to aid in a pinch.
  • Dress comfortably & for conversation:  A brightly colored easy-to-see graphic tees makes friends & meets new neighbors.  Or dress your baby biker dude in a vintage concert souvenir.
  • BYO water (& lip balm): Many spectators graciously offer refreshing bottles along the way, but there’s no guarantee.
  • Prep your phone for pix (sync, download & clear memory): Besides photo ops of tykes on trikes in the middle of 6 lanes of seemingly deserted urban thoroughfare, there’s lots of local color to soak up.
  • Pick a portion to ride:  The course is 10 miles in total, too long for most little legs, with designated crossing points for cars.  Try a segment with few (or no) traffic breaks for constant wind in your hair, tangles be damned.
  • Get a late start: The event goes from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.  No need to be crowded in with the masses.  Eat a healthy breakfast (mmmm, pancakes for fall?) and hit the road a little later.

The CicLAvia site is chock full of detailed guidelines, from parking sites and rules of the road (helmets for everyone!) to a handy dandy downloadable printable map.   Click ‘Join’ on the homepage to get newsy email updates about the route, entertainment and food – and upcoming events.  Because we’re pretty sure that when you’ve  experienced CicLAvia, you’ll be counting the days till the next event. (That would be the South LA route on December 7, or you can wait for the Iconic Wilshire Blvd. ride in spring of 2015.)
What: CicLAvia “Heart of LA” is October 5, 2014 from 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Online: ciclavia.org

– Kim Orchen Cooper

Have you participated in CicLAvia before?  Got any additional tips?  Share them in the comments below. 

Photos courtesy of the author.

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