Whose Streets? Our Streets!

I had planned to ride the much touted and controversial Crash Marathon Bicycle Ride at 4:30 am. However laziness prevailed and I decided to stay close to home and watch the 29th Annual Los Angeles Marathon in my hood. The City of Los Angeles closed Sunset in Silverlake to vehicular traffic, thereby opening the streets for cyclists, skateboarders, walkers and runners. Due to CicLAvia’s popularity, street closures now become an impromptu open street festival for neighbors to relax, play and meet.

Last year Marathon Crash racers awaiting the start

Last year Marathon Crash racers awaiting the start

I awoke to the sound of helicopters following the core amateur running group. When I walked down to Sunset Boulevard, there were crowds of runners barely moving up the hill on Sunset toward Polka Dot Plaza at Maltman. Neighbors streamed out onto the streets cheering on participants by slapping Dodger Blue plastic inflatable rods together yelling, “Good job! You’re almost up the hill! You can do it!” Others congregated at Morning Nights Cafe in the plaza seated at the plaza’s green tables and chairs. Locals crowded Millie’s Cafe, across Sunset from the plaza, cheering on the marathoners.

Children showed off their skateboarding skills while families from the neighborhood walked and waved as they marched down the middle of Sunset, like they were in a parade and we waved back at them yelling, “Yay! Good job!” While people on bicycles respected the marathoners’ space and rode along side them ringing cowbells to motivate the runners.

Skateboarder and runners enjoying the open streets--what could be better?

Skateboarder and runners enjoying the open streets–what could be better?

Some of my neighbors gathered at Triangle park next to Polka Dot plaza and watched the runners go by. Most of our dogs were off leash because the threat of cars was diminished. My little dog Karma finally got to chase the pigeons without me worrying that she would run into a massive SUV hurriedly trying to make a right turn.

Neighbors enjoy polka dot park on a car free Sunday

Neighbors enjoy polka dot park on a car free Sunday

Karma in Triangle park without a leash

Karma in Triangle park without a leash

This is what open street events do for a community. It makes neighbors meet one another without the metal barrier of the automobile. People crossed Sunset without having to push a beg button and race a 20 seconds cross sign countdown, while running for their lives because of impatient drivers making a left hand turn. There’s no noise or dirty fumes from the relentless parade of cars. Just the voices of children laughing and people talking.

Here are some pictures of today’s open streets festival. I even saw a bakfiet in the wild. A father and his children taking advantage of the wide open streets. I was talking to neighbors when he rode by so I missed that picture. Darn. One of my neighbors, Eric, asked, “Can we cross the street during this thing?” He’s usually in his car and couldn’t see the positive effects on the community. So I responded paraphrasing William Mulholland, “They’re your streets. Take it!”

A virtual cool chocolate cheesecake to all the participants–marathoners and neighbors–from velobakery. Good job everyone!

A cool Chocolate Cheesecake for the win

A cool Chocolate Cheesecake for the win

Neighborhood families parading the route

Neighborhood families parading the route

The LA Marathon attracted a diverse group of runners. LA's bike community can learn from the running community on outreach to people of color.

The LA Marathon attracted a diverse group of runners. LA’s bike community can learn from the running community on outreach to people of color.

A couple enjoying the calm streets

A couple enjoying the calm streets

A man cheers on the runners while a bicyclist joins the route

A man cheers on the runners while a bicyclist joins the route

More runners

More runners

Locals and marathoners walking together
Locals and marathoners walking together

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