CicLAvia: Reimagining the Streets of Los Angeles [designobserver]

CicLAvia, October 10, 2010. [Photo by Gary Leonard, via CicLAvia 10-10-10 and]

Many locals and visitors alike view Los Angeles as a massive, disconnected agglomeration — an unsustainable megalopolis. The iconic images of the sprawling city include the Hollywood sign, the wide beaches along the Pacific Coast, the seemingly infinite lights of nighttime L.A., the sweeping aerials of congested freeways that criss-cross the city's almost 500 square miles. Rarely do we picture the intimate district with tree-lined streets, the neighborhood with a lively street life. Rarely do we envision another Los Angeles, a place with the kind of compact, navigable urban environs that we usually associate with New York or Chicago or Boston. And yet today countless efforts are under way to change the perceptions and alter the reality of the nation's second-largest city. [1] 

Just in the last five years, such notable urban planning projects as the Metro╩╝s Expo Line and Gold Line extensions, the Los Angeles Streetcar, the Los Angeles Bicycle Plan, theDowntown Urban Design Guidelines, and the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan have pushed forward an agenda to make the city more sustainable — with an emphasis on walkability, public transit, complete streets, vibrant neighborhoods and public spaces. 

One planning tool helping to redefine Los Angeles is what's increasingly being called the "ephemeral intervention" — the temporary demonstration of how the city might function and feel with a radically redesigned transportation infrastructure. Impermanent events — festivals, demonstrations, fairs, etc. — have long been part of urban life; but their ability to influence both city planning and physical infrastructure is less understood. So here we'd like to analyze how a particular event, the CicLAvia — a festival dedicated to opening the streets to cyclists and pedestrians — has begun to influence planning practice in Los Angeles as well as the attitudes of Angelenos. 

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