Forty years ago, a group of Columbian bicycle activists started a tradition that would eventually spread to hundreds of cities around the world. Called Ciclovía, which means “cycleway” in Spanish, the event shuts down automobile traffic on over 70 miles of streets in Bogota every Sunday – creating space for up to 2 million bicyclists, as well as related events such as music and yoga classes.
According to one Portlander who traveled to the event:
“Ciclovía is more than just about creating an opportunity to encourage physical activity and active transportation, however. It connects some of the wealthiest neighborhoods to the poorest. Corporate executives mounted on bikes worth thousands of dollars ride alongside the minimum-wage earner on a bike that costs just a few. Hundreds of thousands of people gather together every Sunday of the year as part of a single community. From the hours of 7AM to 2PM in Bogotá, all citizens are equal.”
The concept, also referred to as the “open streets” movement, has caught on in cities as far apart as India and New Zealand. It’s been gaining momentum in the U.S. too, with the largest event taking place in LA. Over 100,000 people attend each “CicLAvia,” which centers on a different part of the city every few months. In 2013, it opened up 15 miles of Venice Boulevard, offering riders a direct car-free route to the Pacific Ocean.
While some residents may grumble about the road closures, many businesses benefit from the event, with increased foot traffic and a festive atmosphere that welcomes outdoor vendors. Skateboarding and rollerblading are encouraged too. The next CicLAvia will take place on Sunday, August 14th along Wilshire Boulevard.
In Portland, OR, an event called Sunday Parkways has been taking place for nearly a decade. Every week during the summer, a different part of the city gets a chance to explore a car-free route through their neighborhood.
While that event is family-friendly and hosted by the Bureau of Transportation, another event, called Pedalpalooza, takes bike fun to a different level. For a whole month each summer, residents create their own ride concepts and add them to a public calendar. Over 200 events – sometimes as many as a dozen a day – include everything from bar crawls to costumed rides to the largest World Naked Bike Ride, which draws up to 10,000 riders.
This year, the annual Prince vs. Bowie ride took on a different tone, as fans dressed in costumes and rode along to music honoring the passing of the two rock stars. Anyone can lead a ride of their own, which could draw anywhere from a handful of people to several thousand.
Want to see what a bike festival could bring to your neighborhood? See if your city has its own version of Ciclovia or Pedalpalooza, and if not, gather a few friends and start one! You never know how big it could get.