On Sunday, March 27, I made my way down to the second annual Cyclovia Tucson. The first Cyclovia Tucson, which took place a little less than a year ago in April 2010 was a huge success, and I’d hazard to say that the second one was even better.
The streets of Tucson, Arizona, that were part of the Cyclovia route were filled with people riding bicycles, walking, jogging, skateboarding, dancing, rock climbing, playing games, playing music, chatting, singing, hanging out, and generally enjoying themselves. Not only were the streets along the Cyclovia route filled with thousands of people, they were miraculously car-free!
Cyclovia is a derivation of the Spanish word ciclovía, which literally translates to bike path. However, the term ciclovía or cyclovia has come to mean much more than what the literal translation might imply.
The word cyclovia is now associated with an event that involves the closing-off of city streets to automobile traffic in order to encourage people to come out and experience public space in a different way.
Cyclovia is not a race; cyclovia is not a parade; cyclovia is simply a temporary space that springs up for people to interact with each other, get some exercise, and do so in safe, car-free environment.
Cyclovia events provide anything from activities such as dance and aerobic classes to music to food to games and much more along the route.
The events encourage people from all walks of life to come out and enjoy themselves, and the inclusiveness of the event is definitely heartwarming.
And last, but certainly not least, cyclovia events are generally free and accessible to all.
Bogota, Colombia, was the first city to host a cyclovia event in the 1970’s. These days, 70 miles of streets in Bogota are closed off on Sundays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a weekly basis. Yes, weekly! The cyclovia concept has since spread throughout the world from cities in the U.S. to Australia to Ecuador and many more.
Cyclovia Tucson is very similar in concept to the Bogota Cyclovia. Cyclovia Tucson has six explicit goals, which include:
- Enhance the brand and identity of Greater Tucson as a progressive urban community
- Increase the health and activity of Greater Tucson area residents
- Promote and increase awareness for cycling and walking as an acceptable and safe mode of travel on public streets
- Increase neighborhood mobility, livability and access
- Provide a unique and sociable fun experience for citizens
- Provide a free public event affordable for all (from the Cyclovia website)
In Tucson, Arizona, the cyclovia event provided a meaningful way for people to reconnect with the culture and charm of Tucson. Tucson Velo has a great recap of the event with some comments from organizers and participants that speak to success of the event. The photos and videos from the event also speak to its success.
In 2011, the Cyclovia Tucson route spanned from Downtown Tucson to South Tucson, which was totally different from the 2010 route. The route traveled through some beautiful, historic spaces in Tucson that are not on the regularly beaten path of many Tucson residents.
I was personally excited to return to South 4th Avenue and ride through some fun, funky Tucson neighborhoods that I had never seen before. People whose homes are located along the route were friendly, waving from porches, selling lemonade, and having bake sales along the route. Everyone from people who lived along the route to people who had come from other places were interacting, smiling, and enjoying nearly perfect Tucson spring weather.
Given the recent success, the future of Cyclovia Tucson looks bright. Ideally, the event could become more than just a yearly event and happen more frequently. But yearly event or otherwise, its impacts are much broader than just the single day of the event. As Goal Three above indicates, Cyclovia can help to increase awareness for cycling and walking in Tucson and beyond.