Friday, June 25, 2010

An Angeleno at Sunday Streets

(I wrote this post for the CicLAvia blog. I'm recycling it.)
Last Sunday, June 20, I stepped out of the Mission/ 24th St BART station with a friend, and immediately got swept into a steady stream of people. People on bikes, people walking, little kids biking, and one person in a pink gorilla suit. It was lovely. A man and a piano rode past us. There were lots of pretty girls and boys on pretty bikes.
For pictures of the event and a route map, see the Sunday Streets website.
We walked east on 24th Street, passing between rows of ficus trees and hearing music from various sources (here's a good visualization). There were lots of cafés that seemed to be enjoying an increase in patrons. One café owner had various jugos set up on the street and was calling out his wares to passersby. We stopped for a melon (mmmm! delicious cantaloupe juice), and I asked him how business was. He flashed a wad of cash in response.
Lots of families walked and biked past us. I talked to a few volunteers about practical things like bathrooms, and they directed me to an info booth on Harrison. Nearing the end of the route on 24th, we backtracked and turned south on Harrison. This street had far fewer people on it, since there were only houses and no businesses to attract foot traffic.
At the info booth, we met the Sunday Streets volunteer coordinator, Emma. She told me that they had 160 volunteers working for them that day, helping police officers direct traffic at intersections, riding around and assisting people as needed, and helping with set up and clean up. One volunteer at the booth said we’d come for an especially good event, what with the perfect weather and the neighborhood full of cyclists.
The Mission District in San Francisco shares a few characteristics with the areas LA’s CicLAvia will pass through: old housing stock, low income residents, an influx of new, sustainability-oriented residents, and Latino-owned businesses. We have wider streets, though, so there’d better be even more mobile musical instruments and families at ours!
Having sufficiently used the info booth, we returned to 24th Street and walked west to Valencia. On the way there we passed multiple musical performances, a group of girls dancing around a picnic table in the street, and had to make our way through big crowds. Valencia didn’t have as much traffic, probably because we made it there at the tail end of the event.
At 3 pm, a city employee drove down the route announcing that, “Sunday Streets is over. Please move to the sidewalk.” Immediately cars filled the lanes. Sigh. Valencia has bikes lanes, though, so plenty of bicyclists continued to flow along the street as we walked.
All in all, I didn’t expect such a palpable feeling of goodwill. It hit me as soon as we hit 24th Street, and stayed with me for the rest of the day. So many happy faces, so many people enjoying the street. How will Portland’s Sunday Parkways compare?