"It's so much nicer here with no cars."
"Why are we walking on the sidewalk? Let's go in the middle of the street. Because we can."
"This is so cool. Why don't they do this more often."
"It's a totally different experience without the cars."
These are a few of the comments I overhead during San Diego's second "open streets" event held March 30, 2014 in my neighborhood of Pacific Beach. I'm still in a blissful state after being on the car-free streets for most of the day. It was one of San Diego's many perfect days with clear skies and gentle temperatures. The event brought out thousands with their wild bicycles, tricycles, and unicycles; their skateboards and roller blades; a few costumes; many dogs. And LOTS of kids. This is a great way to teach kids that roads can be used for something other than just cars.
Congratulations to the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition for organizing the CicloSDias event. They did a great job and enhanced the quality of life of thousands of people from all around San Diego. I learned that the Bicycle Coalition also was the primary funder of the whole event. It's great that they were able to do that, but I hope to see more commitment in the future from the City and SANDAG, our regional transportation agency. The Bicycle Coalition's limited budget forced the route to be shortened to 2.5 miles, compared to 5.2 miles for the first CicloSDias. CicLAvias in Los Angeles are at least 7 miles, and Bogota, Colombia closes about 100 miles of streets every Sunday and holiday. Though I am pleased we have our own events in San Diego, we have a long way to go. My hope is that the public demand for CicloSDias leads the City and SANDAG to support regular events as a public benefit.
I was part of a group that evaluated the first CicloSDias, held in August 2013. Led by Jordan Carlson and Sherry Ryan, we counted participants, did intercept interviews with participants, conducted a random sample telephone survey of residents citywide, and surveyed businesses. The results are available in a report and are being written up as a journal article. The same group did a more modest evaluation of the Pacific Beach event, so look for a report to be posted soon. We prioritized conducting a second survey of businesses, because support of businesses is likely to make-or-break CicloSDias as a regular event. I certainly expect thousands of walkers, cyclists, and rollers to be great for business. In addition to trying new shops or restaurants on the day of the event, people are likely to come back after the event though that will be difficult to track. I am hoping our data showing that the vast majority of business owners benefitted from the event will help reduce anxiety and opposition from owners in neighborhoods where future CicloSDias will be held. In our first business survey we got some ideas about how to make the event more positive for businesses of all kinds.
In addition to being an extremely enjoyable day and enticing many people to get out and be active for hours on a Sunday, I hope we can use CicloSDias events to build a culture of using streets in more creative ways. Up to one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to streets, and one single use of those streets (cars) is no longer acceptable. Opening the street to people is a great way to encourage folks of all ages to be active in a safe and festive atmosphere. We went out to walk, bike, and roll on the streets of Pacific Beach. "Because we can."
If you'd like to read about San Diego's first CicloSDias, check out my blog here.
Enjoy these photos from the Pacific Beach event!