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Behind the scenes of CicLAvia, interview with organizer Joe Linton

Los Angeles is almost synonymous with its entanglement of highways and procession of cars, but CicLAvia and the growing bike-friendly movement in the city is slowly giving Angelenos a new vision of Los Angeles.

We’ve been so excited making plans for Sunday, but we also know that not everyone at CicLAvia’s going to be off-duty. The hardworking organizers at CicLAvia are going to be there to help keep things moving smoothly.

We asked Joe Linton, one of CicLAvia’s organizers what it feels like to be working in what is arguably LA’s biggest block party and if he still gets to enjoy the event. Here’s what he said:

We’re always excited when CicLAvia rolls around. How did the idea for CicLAvia begin?
CicLAvia is based on the original ciclovia from Bogota, Colombia. Since the 1970′s they’ve done a huge street closure event there. Today, they close 80 miles of streets every week! Every Sunday, rain or shine! The idea has spread to cities around the world, including Guadalajara, Mexico City, San Francisco, Oakland, Tucson, and Los Angeles.

Almost five years ago, now-CicLAvia Board President Bobby Gadda went to Bogota, checked out ciclovia and started working to make it happen here. Mayor Villaraigosa visited a ciclovia event in Mexico City and came back and marshalled city forces to bring it to Los Angeles.

What things have got you most excited this time around?
1. Route Expansion: We’ve added two new spur routes. The south spur is my new favorite – pinatas, textiles, architecture! The new north spur connects with L.A.’s historic plaza – museums, restaurants, more architecture!

2. CicLAvia Walks: We love bikes! I love bikes! but we want to make sure that CicLAvia is inclusive. Everyone is welcome. We’re introducing tours, music and other activities that will help attract more pedestrians – and will encourage cyclists to slow down and enjoy.

What do you do at the event as a volunteer/crew?
I’ve been able to mostly spend time moving through the route, checking on volunteers, fixing flat tires, responding to questions.

As a volunteer, what’s the biggest thing you have to watch out for during CicLAvia?
The biggest issue on my list is getting folks to slow down. Though huge numbers of people had a great time in April 2011, there were a few reports of faster moving cyclists telling slower moving folks to get out of the way. We’re doing all we can to make sure that folks know that it’s not a race, that it’s open to everyone, and to take things at a more chill pace.

Do you still get to have fun and ride on CicLAvia?
Yes. I’ve ended up too busy to ride the whole route… but I’m definitely out there… and it’s really fun to see so many Angelenos smiling. I got worried, especially before last October’s first CicLAvia – what if nobody shows up? But by around 10:20am, so many people were enjoying themselves that I knew that we had a good thing going. It’s definitely very fun for me.

You were actually worried no one would show up? Wow! No worry of that this year.

If you had to choose, do you have a favorite section of the route?
There’s so much great stuff on the route, so it’s difficult to choose. I’m going to say the 4th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River (Ed’s note: right by the Poketo studio). I am a creek freak – working on L.A. River revitalization… so I love those great historic bridges. The 1931 4th Street Bridge is one of the finest – with Gothic-style ornamentation. What’s great is that, when we get cars off of the bridge, it becomes a place where people hang out. There are great views of downtown and of the other river bridges.

How can people help keep CicLAvia going?
We definitely depend on folks who love CicLAvia to give back. We still need quite a few volunteers. We love donations.

We need folks to buy shirts, water bottles, buttons, and our new Poketo X CicLAvia wallets at the event on October 9th.

It’s also important that people patronize businesses along the route. We count on businesses and residents support. Don’t pack a lunch! Spend money along the route! Tell business owners and residents along the route “thank you for sharing your street with us today.”

We’ll be sure to thank them on Sunday then! Thanks for giving a look behind CicLAvia, Joe. See you Sunday!

* Photos CC Licensed by Gary Leonard. Additional photography courtesy of CicLAvia.

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