Scenes from a Ciclovía
Last Sunday (August 14) Denver held its first ciclovía, known locally as “Viva Streets.” A two mile stretch of East 23rd Avenue in my neighborhood of Park Hill was closed to motor vehicles. For four hours bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, joggers,
pedestrians and assorted others filled the street to celebrate, according to the event’s organizers, “an active lifestyle.” There was music, fun-and-games (including ping-pong), and the Denver Nuggets Dancers. Grilled food was available on the sidewalk at Dexter and 23rd, the neighborhood’s heart.
Celebrating an active lifestyle is an easy sell in these parts, mostly because we do it just about every day. Denver routinely shows up in the middle of America’s “Top 10 Fittest Cities” lists. Alternatively, other cities have used ciclovías to encourage social interaction, civic pride, and community building across diverse groups of urban dwellers. I’m not sure how much of that was accomplished at the Denver event, covering as it did only two miles of cityscape. More would almost certainly be gained by using our ciclovías to link multiple neighborhoods across a broader swath of city. Bogota, Columbia—where the idea of ciclovía was originally conceived, and where the event is now valued less for its promotion of a healthy lifestyle and more for the opportunity it presents for social integration—opens a 70 mile route each Sunday.
New York City closed almost 7 miles of roadway for ciclovía Saturdays in 2008 and 2009. Splitting the difference between 7 miles and 70 might be a good target for future ciclovías in Denver, perhaps along a stretch running from East Colfax to West Highland via Capitol Hill and Five Points. That would obviously take more planning and incur greater expense, but it would aim a little higher by making social mixing just as important a goal as outdoor recreating.
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