October 08, 2012

Free-Wheeling the Open Streets of LA

This weekend used to be my favorite weekend.

Since 2003, I used to look forward to the first weekend in October to have the opportunity to tramp around various New York City sites as part of Open House New York weekend.

When I announced that I was moving from New York to LA, I told all my friends, "Don't worry, I'll be back for Open House New York."

And my first year away, I did return for the first weekend in October.

But this year, my second year away, I did not.

I stayed in LA this weekend. While New York opened its doors to museums, historic homes, subway substations, and the UN, LA opened its streets as part of a biannual event called CicLAvia.

I'd done CicLAvia twice before, this past spring and a year ago, but not being a very experienced bicyclist, I feel like I wasted much of my energy biking to the event rather than enjoying it once I got there. I'd never even completed the entire course. So this year, despite organizers' encouragement to bike or take public transportation, I drove downtown, parked my car in the Arts District, and set off down 4th Street, crossing over the LA River into the uncharted territory Boyle Heights, its famous Mariachi Plaza, and the Soto Station hub.

I then backtracked across the LA River again back to downtown, heading up through Little Tokyo, past City Hall, Grand Park, and into Chinatown, seeing much of LA I'd never seen before, and the rest I'd never seen before quite like this.

Turning around in Chinatown, I headed back downtown, skipping the MacArthur Park hub so as not to retread old ground, and proceeding down Figueroa Street through the Figueroa Corridor, which links Downtown LA to USC and Exposition Park. As we cyclists - fewer of us here than on the jam-packed Spring Street - passed Staples Center and the convention center towards the Felix Chevrolet, I heard someone say, "I had no idea this was down here..."

The whole day was a delightfully cacophonic mélange of music, bells, horns, cheers and other hooting and hollering. At one point as I was approaching an overpass, I heard a chorus of woo's coming from the darkness, and I wondered what was afoot. But as I myself went under, I realized that this overpass had created our urban cavern, a fleeting, acoustic playground of reverberation as we wheeled our way through. Tears arrived, as I realized I wasn't alone. Those of us who want to see the unseen parts of the city - on foot, on bike, however - are just so spread out across this vast Californian landscape that it takes a special event like CicLAvia, even if only twice a year, to help us all converge.

All in all, over the course of three hours, I biked over 17 miles, a new personal record for me. Surprisingly, I wasn't that tired. I only stopped because it was over.

And to think that that morning, after too little sleep and too much birthday party the night before, I considered skipping it and not going at all.

Then I wouldn't have ended up on the cover of today's Los Angeles Times.

from the Los Angeles Times
Can't wait til Spring 2013!

For more photos of CicLAvia, click here.

Related Post:
Proceed With Caution
The Air in My Tires
Not Going Back

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