Living Streets Alliance Reimagines Life on Two Wheels with Cyclovia and Hullabaloo
March 25, 2014
by James J. Jefferies
Modern life can be a stressful, complicated, challenging affair. Sometimes, it feels as if there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And if you think about your own commute, the daily grind of getting from point A to B, the odds are that a great deal of your most anxiety-inducing moments occur right there behind the wheel, or worse yet, at a mechanic’s shop, getting a four-digit repair bill. Taking a look back since America’s post-World War II economic boom, it seems as if we have spent the better part of a century fixated solely on building our lives, our cities, and our streets around the convenience provided by automobiles.
Of course, if you rewind your own internal clock, and recall a nearly universal childhood memory, we all can remember our first bikes. Whether you got it for your birthday, Christmas, or picked one out at the store after pulling weeds for money, you remember your first bike. You remember what color it was, what the streamers looked like, and what it felt like the first time you managed to ride completely under your own power. The ensuing sensation sense of freedom you felt, with the wind in your hair, as you sped off down the street from your house. Juxtapose that with the accompanying sense of adult dread as you climb into your car on a Monday at 7:30am, anticipating the morning rush hour.
We love the private accessibility of our cars, but hate traffic jams. We rage about the behavior of other drivers, and the state of our roads, while simultaneously fretting about not having enough time to go to the gym that day. America’s love affair with the motor vehicle feels like we’re trapped in a bad romance. (Cue Lady Gaga.) Given the crossroads we find ourselves at here early in the 21st century, with local traffic and global environmental concerns very much intertwined, it may be the perfect time to call that set of assumptions into question.
Kylie Walzak, and the local nonprofit organization Living Streets Alliance, are very much organized around the core idea of changing the way we think about our own commuting and lifestyles, and asking aloud about what our streets and urban infrastructures should be optimized for.
“I was out and about one day (driving around),” said Walzak, “and I noticed somebody dressed up and walking to work, and I thought, ‘Oh, that poor person.’ And that’s really part of the problem.” We have been so exclusively devoted to use of our cars, that simply seeing someone walking or biking to work is often interpreted as a severe hardship, rather than what may very well be a conscious lifestyle choice. It is LSA’s goal to normalize and legitimize people’s right to bike and walk to work.
LSA is responsible for a variety of efforts geared towards making our streets safer places for walking, bicycling, socializing, and play, such as organizing Neighborhood Walkability Assessments, safety awareness projects, and raising money for Tucson’s First Parklet, but their biggest event now occurs twice a year, and that is Cyclovia Tucson.
Cyclovia is a Spanish word, which signifies the temporary closure of a network of streets to cars, so they are completely open to people for biking, walking, skating, and a variety of free activities. The idea originated in Bogota, Colombia, where people routinely sunbathe, walk, talk, bike, exercise, and picnic right out in the streets on over 70 miles of city roadways, every single Sunday and holiday of the year. It’s really about putting an emphasis on bringing communities closer, and putting some balance back into our lives in terms of work and play.
Tucson’s own Cyclovia has been gaining momentum since 2010, having drawn a record 25,000 participants last year. This year, it will take place on Sunday, April 6th from 10am-3pm, on a 5-mile Downtown loop from 4th Avenue, over to 8th Avenue past Armory Park, and back over again on 34th Street, passing the South Tucson Restaurant Row. The route passes six main “activity hubs”, at which there will be numerous attractions, such as food vendors, entertainment, music, interactive games, demonstrations, and more. The entire idea is aimed at bringing our community together during a wonderful time of year, reclaiming the streets as a venue for physical recreation, and envisioning our lives as just a little different from how they generally are.
Anchoring the entire event are two festivals on either end of the path, the Tucson Hullabaloo event on the north end, presented in conjunction with Cyclovia Tucson, which takes place on both Saturday and Sunday (April 5th-6th) of that weekend, and South Tucson’s Feria de Sur Tucson. Hullabaloo is also focused on bringing the community together, retaining that which makes Tucson its own fun and funky self, while giving everyone the chance to express and enjoy themselves with crazy costumes, a bike parade, a wealth of music acts, and exposure for a variety of terrific local vendors offering craft beer, great food, and more. The price of a ticket to Hullabaloo will set you back a measly $5, and entitles you to a lively outing which you could easily partake of while on the Cyclovia route.
Of course, it must be said that an event the scale of Cyclovia Tucson does not come without a need for donations, or for spirited volunteers who really make the event the safe and outstanding time for all that it has come to be. There remains an urgent call for volunteers to help place Cyclovia yard signs around the route, and to distribute door hangers and event parking reminders on cars, in addition to helping out on the day of the event. All of these things require a lot of help, as does the tremendous amount of organizational work done for this event at the Living Streets Alliance office. If you have interest in lending a hand, please check out the website below for details on how you can get involved.
All told, it promises to be a stellar Sunday here in the Old Pueblo. Get on your bikes and ride out into an awesome afternoon of food, fun, and sun! For more information, check out Living Streets Alliance, Cyclovia Tucson, and Tucson Hullabaloo.