Above photo, Left to Right: Patrick McGarrity; Chief of Staff to Councilmember Arenas; Kieran Kelly, Policy Aide to County Supervisor Ken Yeager; Ryan O’Connor, Interim Executive Director, 8 80 Cities; County Supervisor Ken Yeager; Alyssa Bird, Senior Project Manager, 8 80 Cities; San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, District 8; Lauren Ledbetter, Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, VTA; Nuria Fernandez, General Manager/CEO, VTA; Neil Rufino, Acting Deputy Director, Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services, City of San Jose; Brian Clampitt, Viva CalleSJ Event Coordinator, PRNS, City of San Jose; Sak Mendez, Viva CalleSJ Event Specialist, PRNS, City of San Jose.

Thanks to Nuria Fernandez, General Manager and CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, for authoring this guest blog post sharing her recent experiences traveling to Los Angeles with the Viva CalleSJ crew!

San Jose has Viva CalleSJ—Los Angeles has CicLAvia. Last month, Los Angeles celebrated its 20th CicLAvia in grand style, with thousands biking on car-free Venice Boulevard, from downtown Culver City to Venice Beach. Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, and I were there, participating in a study tour sponsored by the City of San Jose, and led by nonprofit 8 80 Cities. Over the course of three days, we learned about CicLAvia, spoke with LA Metro about their open streets program, and biked CicLAvia.

20th CicLAvia: Culver City to the Sea kicks off in downtown Culver City

On Friday, we met with executive staff of Los Angeles Metro, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and Los Angeles Council Member Jose Huizar. The Councilmember’s office applauded how a small group of community members pushed for open streets, and steadily moved city bureaucracy toward accepting and now enthusiastically supporting CicLAvia. Metro is a major financial backer of open streets events, and in 2014 funded 12 open streets events with $3.7 million in competitive funding. Los Angeles DOT is taking the next step and piloting mini-open streets events called Play Streets.

On Saturday, we toured downtown LA’s new bicycle and pedestrian improvements: a protected bike lane on Los Angeles Street, Metro Bikeshare stations, pedestrian improvements along Broadway, and the transformed intersection of Hope Street and 11th Street, complete with bioswales and parklet.

We then carpooled to Culver City to talk to local business owners along the CicLAvia route—several were adding staff to accommodate increased business. We heard from a UCLA researcher about the positive impacts of CicLAvia events, including day-of transit ridership increases of 40% to 50%. We ended the day driving the route.

On Sunday, under perfect skies, we met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and joined thousands in downtown Culver City to kickoff CicLAvia. A steady stream of bicyclists flowed along the six-mile route. We passed legendary sites, such as Venice High (a.ka. Rydell High from the movie Grease), and the mansion from Gone with the Wind. We reached the end of the route at Venice Beach, ate lunch, and rode back to the start, watching even more people ride out to the beach.

Having participated in one CicLAvia, how does it compare to San Jose’s VivaCalle SJ? It is a testament to the City of San Jose that in just two years, attendance has matched that of other longstanding open streets events. While CicLAvia was overwhelmingly attended by bicyclists, VivaCalle SJ attracts a broader base: pedestrians, people with strollers, rollerskaters. Both events include “hubs” with fun activities for participants, but VivaCalle SJ seems to have more activities spread along the route. Both events are very fun, and a great way to get to know a place.

Some of the key takeaways that we can use here in our area are:

  • Open streets events can help boost bike culture, which may lead to more investments in bike/pedestrian programs, create healthier communities, and change the landscape of the community.
  • Paramount to success is partnering with other organizations and actively engaging local communities in advance of the event.
  • Open street events can help increase ridership, as LA Metro experienced during CicLAvia event days.
  • Open streets events boost business along the route, and allow people to experience and explore their community with their neighbors.

The next Viva CalleSJ will be held on September 17, 2017. VTA will be there, and we hope you will, too.