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Street closures signal arrival of CicLAvia


Southern California is famous as the land of the automobile. In fact, the car is so tightly woven into our daily culture that when something happens to disrupt the flow of traffic–Carmegeddon I and II–it takes top billing on news stations and warrants live television coverage throughout.

Now that Carmegeddon II is a memory for most people, there is one more car-less day upcoming.

But Sunday, Oct. 7, won’t have the drama that Carmegeddon did. In fact, this car-less day is being billed as a time for communities to get together and celebrate one another and healthy living.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, the fifth annual CicLAvia event will transform 9.1 miles of normally congested streets in one huge bike lane, and this year South Los Angeles has been invited to the party in a different kind of way.

In past years, the route has gone past the African American Firefighter Museum at 14th Street and Central Avenue, but this time, as part of an evolving process to venture into more communities, CicLAvia board member Tafarai Blayne says the route will pass the California African American Museum in Exposition Park.

In fact, the museum is one of six hubs where a variety of activities will take place.

Activities at CAAM will coincide with the museum’s free Target Sunday programming and begin at 11 a.m.

According to Blayne, activities will include Zuumba classes, art exhibits and the opportunity for children to make art; food testing; and a photo booth.

The route stretches from MacArthur Park through Boyle Heights, Chinatown and downtown L.A. to the southern most point in Exposition Park.

The other hubs include Chinatown, the newly opened Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, Mariachi Plaza in East L.A. and the Soto station.

While this is the first year, the CicLAvia route has traveled so far south, there are a number of South L.A.-based organizations that have been participating in the event for years, including  the Eastside Riders.

This 4-year-old club is based out of the Watts Labor Communication Action Center and services the communities of Compton, Lynwood, South Gate, South Los Angeles, Watts and West Athens.

According to organizer John Jones, the Eastside Riders will gather at WLCAC at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at 109th St. and Central Avenue and bring what he calls a feeder ride to the Expo park hub.

“We’ll take Central Avenue north to Jefferson Boulevard, then west to Figueroa Street and north to the museum. We’ll start out with our group, pick up another group at 103rd and Central and then pick up another group at Central and Firestone.”

By the time they arrive at Exposition Park, if last year is any indication, Jones said they may have more than 70 riders.

The base group, the Eastside Riders is comprised of Jones and his family; his brother Bryan August-Jones and his family as well as friends. They range in age from 2 to 68 years old. And often, John’s wife, a registered nurse, rides with the group.

This is the Eastside Riders fifth year participating in CicLAvia, but their activities are not limited to this one event.

According to Jones, the club, which accepts all kinds of bikes–low-riders, fixed gear (fixies) and others–is geared to providing service to the community. Their activities include feeding the less fortunate, giving away toys every Christmas, feeding people at Thanksgiving, hosting a Bike-for-Love in February in conjunction  with Valentines Day, giving away bicycles to children and families [last year the club gave away more than 100 bikes]; training children all year long on how to safely ride a bike in the streets.

They also do bike repairs.

Just recently the group completed a biking for cancer ride.

Once they arrive at Exposition Park, Jones said they intend to enjoy the activities there for a while, then bike up to MacArthur Park and the new Grand Park in downtown L.A. Then it’s back home to Watts.

“That’s the fun part,” says the biking enthusiast. “We stop and get something to eat, enjoy the music we bring with us, make sure that everyone is hydrated by providing water and fruit, and then just enjoy each other’s company.”

Ideally, Jones said he wants to bring CicLAvia to the Southeast part of the county into communities such as Huntington Park, South Gate and Lynwood.

But meanwhile, he, the Eastside Riders and their friends are preparing to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon of cycling Oct. 7.