Tens of thousands of people walked, jogged and biked along a closed six-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard on Sunday for the first CicLAvia of 2014. Several of the participants were representatives from other cities and countries, hoping to take lessons from the event back to their hometowns.
They came from six other countries and a total of 30 cities -- from Cape Town to Columbus, Ohio -- to attend the second Open Streets National Summit. The weekend conference featured panels and workshops that shared best practices of successful open streets initiatives.
The open streets movement is spreading throughout north America, said Mike Samuelson, Open Streets Coordinator for the national Alliance for Biking & Walking.
"We’ve seen phenomenal growth," said Samuelson. "In the last six years, we’ve gone from maybe eight cities doing open streets to now well over a hundred."
CicLAvia — modeled after the Ciclovia in Bogota, Colombia and now in its fifth year — has become an inspiration for some.
"If the car capital of the world can pull this off and become car free for this...one day," then anyone can, said Aaron Paley, executive director and co-founder of CicLAvia.
Even so, those wanting to launch CicLAvia-style initiatives face a range of financial and logistical challenges. Paley estimates that each CicLAvia costs about $500,000 to produce.
Conference attendee Stephen Patchan, bicycle pedestrian coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh, said his city will pilot its first open streets program later this year.
"I [feel] a little overwhelmed at this point, but very excited and ready to get back to Pittsburgh and mobilize the troops and bring back all of this information that we have," said Patchan.
Jessica Matthews, a biking advocate from Columbus Ohio, said she has been trying to organize a CicLAvia-type event in her city for three years. After attending the summit and bicycling in CicLAvia on Sunday, she was more determined than ever.
"I'm doing it," said Matthews. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. How can you not do this?"