Walking, Biking – Even Skateboarding — People Took to the Streets Today Without Their Cars

Biking on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood

People of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities took to major streets without cars for seven hours today to participate in CicLAvia’s “Meet the Hollywoods.”

“From EaHo to WeHo,” is how Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described the 6.5-mile route during an opening ceremony on Santa Monica Boulevard at the Metro bus garage in West Hollywood. The route extended along Santa Monica from its intersection with San Vicente Boulevard on the west to Highland Avenue on the east. Highland was carless from Santa Monica Boulevard north to Hollywood Boulevard, and then Hollywood Boulevard was free of car traffic east to its intersection with Vermont Avenue

State Assemblymember Laura Friedman, whose 43rd Assembly District includes part of the route, called out the health advantages of reducing automobile tailpipe emissions, an issue that environmentally friendly California is still struggling to deal with. Cycling should be something experienced routinely by everyone she said. “It’s not just for the Spandex wearing health nuts.”

The event itself might have briefly improved the air quality in West Hollywood. A study by UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Healthfound that an October 2014 CicLAvia event held in and around downtown Los Angeles reduced the presence of ultrafine air particles by 21% and that readings for particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller declined by 49%. In addition, measurements on other streets in the neighborhoods that hosted the event (even though those streets were still open to traffic) were 12% lower on the day of the event, compared with non-event days. Among cities in the United States ranked on the “most polluted” list in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, the Los Angeles-Long Beach area this year ranked first for ozone levels, fifth for year-round particle pollution, and seventh for short-term particle pollution. For 19 of the 20 years that the ALA has done the ranking, Los Angeles has ranked No. 1 in overall poor air quality, with serious consequences for heart and lung health.

Other elected officials who turned out for the opening ceremony included Assemblymember Richard Bloom, whose 50th District includes West Hollywood, WeHo Mayor John D’Amico and City Council members John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath, and Lauren Meister. Horvath in 2015 proposed that the city seek a grant from the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund the event. The Council voted in May to contribute $233,000 to Metro’s $500,000 allocation. Councilmember John Duran, who spoke out against the CicLAvia event at a May 20 City Council meeting did not attend today’s event. In explaining his opposition to the event, Duran said: “I think it’s an incredible burden on our residents and their ability to travel freely on a Sunday in the summer.”

The event was the 30th put on by CicLAvia since 2010. CicLAvia is a non-profit organization that promotes car-free streets and “connects communities to each other across an expansive city, creating a safe place to bike, walk, skate, roll, and dance through Los Angeles County.” Today’s event was heavily promoted by the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition, a local bicycle advocacy group.

Most of those exploring West Hollywood and Hollywood today did so on bicycles, although there also were more than a few electric bikes and electric scooters and the occasional hip, young guy or gal on a motorized skateboard or other one-wheel motorized devices, apparent albeit minor violations of the ban on motorized vehicles. There also were parents pushing baby carriages or guiding their children carefully on small bikes, and people with special needs slowly spinning down the boulevards and avenues on specially designed bicycles and tricycles. And then there were those who walked.

CicLAvia had reached out to local businesses that might be impacted by the street closing. While it is unclear at this point whether any were affected, some appeared to have benefitted from it, with dozens of bicycles clustered outside Shake Shake and Starbucks on Santa Monica between Westmount and La Cienega.

While the event itself ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., streets were closed to cars from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with nine points for cars to cross the route.

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