Project would shut streets for bicyclists

LOS ANGELES Wouldn't it be nice to get on a bike and ride without having to navigate through traffic?

How about a long stroll through your neighborhood streets with the family?

Sure some folks have the opportunity to do that in some areas, but the majority of L.A.'s streets belong to motorists.

"That's our dream, to make Los Angeles friendly to bicycles one day a week on Sunday mornings so that people can really enjoy the city," said Jonathan Parfrey of the /*Green L.A. Institute*/ .

The vision isn't new, and it's called /*Ciclovia*/ . It originated in Columbia and it's been done New York , Chicago, San Francisco and Portland.

Now a group of local bicycle enthusiasts are volunteering their time and talents to bring Ciclavia to L.A. Every Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting in areas like Silver Lake, Echo Park and Boyle Heights, streets would be closed for a two- to three-mile stretch.

"Ciclavia is an opportunity to take our streets, which we have so many of, and turn them into parks, which we don't have many of," said Stephen Villavaso, Ciclavia supporter.

"The benefit is that people get out, they exercise, they get to meet their neighbors, and they get a feeling that they can be part of living in the city of L.A. on a bicycle, or through walking, or through roller-blading, and it doesn't just belong to the cars; the streets can belong to the people as well," said Parfrey.

"I think it's a great idea. I think it's a great way to introduce families and children to transportation other than cars and doing something that the family can do together," said Andrea Akel of Los Angeles.

Charity groups are already on board promising to fund Ciclovia in Boyle Heights, and the L.A. mayor's office says it's backing the project as well.

Yet some people are concerned about costs and the impact the weekly closure will have on traffic.

"I work on weekends, so I can see how it' will be an obstacle to get there on time if they're closing certain roads. I'd have to figure out a way to get around that," said Claudia Gomez of Sherman Oaks.

"There's very minimal costs associated with it, and we also see this as a revenue generator. We want to work with local businesses to help increase their foot traffic and their exposure. So, we see this as a win, win in terms of cost," said Sandra Hamlat, a Ciclavia Project volunteer.

If all goes as planned, the roll-out will be slow with the first Ciclavia clearing the streets near you by spring 2010.

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