Two years ago, my wife and I got to know an amazing 12 year old girl as a summer host family through www.Kidsave.org . When we traveled to Bogota, Colombia to complete her adoption, people told us not to miss Ciclovia. Every Sunday from 7 am-2 pm, over 90 miles of roads are ‘opened’ to the people. Most walk, some jog, many ride bikes or rollerblade. Others simply enjoy watching the river of hundreds of thousands of people going by. Every 8 miles or so, we would hear music. As we approached, we saw hundreds of people of all ages dancing along with aerobics instructors. Smiles and laughter abounded. Happiness. Happiness in a city once known only for its’ violence, poverty and despair.
I asked people in Bogota what they would do if Ciclovia stopped. They always reacted with shock and consider Ciclovia an essential part of city living. As their former mayor, Enrique Penalosa, said: “As a bird needs to fly… people need to walk.”
I wondered which cities in the United States provided this great opportunity for all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and abilities. Imagine my surprise to learn that there wasn’t a single one! (Last May, El Paso held the first Ciclovia in the US.)
Back in Baltimore, my daughter wondered why there was no Ciclovia here. With the help of One Less Car and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, Baltimore will be the first city on the east coast to launch Ciclovia, now called Sunday Streets this October for four weeks. We now have an opportunity to realize her, and our mayors, vision of a cleaner, healthier, greener, and safer city with Sunday Streets. It will become our physical internet; An open network of human interactions that allows everyone full access in attaining our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, that Happiness word again.
The possibilities are limitless: Farmers markets, youth employment, exercise classes, matinee performances, and a venue for our hardworking nonprofits to hold special events.
Depending on how much we all participate, we may see it become a city fixture with increasing mileage and different routes into the future. There are many opportunities for my fellow bloggers and their wonderfully audacious ideas to play roles as well….Now it’s time for us all to get outside and have some fun together!
To see Ciclovia/Sunday Streets in action, take a look at this 9 minute film: http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/ciclovia/