Volunteer Lys Mendez has only missed one of the 15 previous editions of CicLAvia, the car-free event taking place throughout Los Angeles.
She’s visited Pasadena, South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles and Santa Monica since its October 2010 debut, and said she has gained a fresh perspective from walking or biking.
“CicLAvia allows you to discover the city, to see different parts of the city and how you can enjoy it outside of a car,” she said.
On Sunday, March 6, Mendez and thousands of others can discover more Southern California neighborhoods.
This year CicLAvia — the event where entire streets are closed to vehicular traffic for a day and devoted entirely to bicycles and pedestrians — will include the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
Meaning streets from Panorama City to Pacoima — Van Nuys Boulevard from Roscoe Boulevard and Leigh Avenue — will be closed to auto traffic starting at 8 a.m. (See accompanying map.)
“We’re going to celebrate the history, culture, all the beautiful things the Valley has to offer and that sometimes we don’t get to see or enjoy because we’re always in a car,” Mendez said.
Those participating in CicLAvia can view a part of the Valley that is often overlooked.
Along Van Nuys Boulevard, participants can see the much admired Mural Mile, where local artists have celebrated Los Angeles with scenes mixing history, local talent and noted figures.
The four-mile route features three hubs in Panorama City, Arleta and Pacoima providing food vendors, activities and information.
“People, pedestrians, take back the street as they’ve been doing [in other parts of] Los Angeles, and to do it in the Northeast San Fernando Valley where they see the art, the food, the culture and the families, it’s fantastic. I can’t wait for it to happen,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, whose seventh district covers this area.
On average, around 50,000 people have attended each CicLAvia.
Until this weekend, the closest the event has been near the San Fernando Valley was last year, when CicLAvia stretched from North Hollywood to Studio City.
Event president Romel Pascual describes the CicLAvia as “one day out of the year where you begin to slow down a little bit on the streets. You begin to hear the sound of conversation versus the sound of auto traffic, you hear the sound of people talking about their communities and talking to each other.”
Sunday’s event will kick off at 8:30 a.m. at Pacoima City Hall. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, council members Felipe Fuentes and Nury Martinez, and local resident/actor/entrepreneur Danny Trejo, among others, are expected to attend.
At the kickoff, three families will receive scooters as part of the CicLAvia program. Artists will paint a mural along Van Nuys Boulevard during the event, showcasing the Mural Mile in Pacoima and the local talent.
Yvette Lopez-Ledesma, deputy director for the community organization Pacoima Beautiful, said “this is a great opportunity” to showcase this part of the Valley.
“We’re probably not a ‘cool’ community, but we have great neighborhoods with a lot of challenges, but with great people and great families,” Lopez-Ledesma said.
And while many people may not think of Pacoima as a “bicycle community,” the reality is many residents use the bicycle as their main form of transportation, Lopez-Ledesma added.
The event is open to all, Mendez said. Bicyclists and pedestrians can join at any point and will find all kinds of attractions along the route.
“The only thing you need is the desire to enjoy the day and walk through the city,” she said.
For more information about CicLAvia the Valley, road closures and other information, visit www.ciclavia.org