If Long Beach has its way, the people will take back the streets, for at least one day.
First District Councilman Robert Garcia, Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, Third District Councilman Gary DeLong and Ninth District Councilman Steven Neal put forth a request Tuesday night to have the city look into grant funding for its own Ciclovia.
“The whole concept is to make the street accessible to the neighborhood,” said Allan Crawford, city bicycle coordinator. “It is a several mile-long block party, if you will. You get bicycles, pedestrians — you could actually have kids playing catch in the street. You basically give this public space back to the neighborhood for several hours.”
Ciclovias started about 30 years ago in Bogata, Columbia, and the events have spread throughout the world. Los Angeles has had a popular Ciclovia event for five consecutive years, Garcia said, and now there appears to be a good opportunity for Long Beach to get involved.
The Los Angeles County MTA will be offering $2 million in grant funding for other cities in the county to create their own Ciclovia events.
“They have budgeted that, and they put the call out there,” Garcia said. “Long Beach has been talking for a couple of years now about putting this together. This should be a natural fit.”
City staff estimates that the Los Angeles Ciclovia has cost about $350,000 each year. A recent example of that closed streets linking the beach to downtown there.
“Our’s would be much smaller, and be at no cost to the city because of the grant coming from MTA,” Garcia said.
Crawford said a Long Beach Ciclovia might cost somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. He has met and discussed the early concept with MTA.
In order to pull off an event like this, the money goes toward costs like police officers enforcing the closure. A Ciclovia closure would not be like what people witness during a marathon, Crawford said, but rather a soft closure enforced by boots on the street — it wouldn’t completely cut off traffic, but there would be impacts.
The recommendation received unanimous approval, which directs the city manager to apply for the MTA grant and report back to the City Council in 90 days.
“One of the other keys to these events is the economic impact can be huge,” Garcia said. “Those who benefit from the event aren’t just those involved, but the local businesses do extremely well and for some it’s one of the best day of the year for them in Los Angeles.”
Crawford said he has had a number of community stakeholders already reach out who are interested in pulling the route toward them — but the planning process is still a ways off. Any grant likely wouldn’t be awarded until the fall.
Jonathan Van Dyke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.