Open-street event comes to Western Avenue June 23

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — It’s that time of year again when local streets become devoid of cars and other motor vehicles to give way to people walking, skating, jogging or cycling as part of the free, annual CicLAvia South LA, taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23.

Now a time-honored annual event, CicLAvia, which has been opening streets across Los Angeles County since 2010, is said to engage with people to transform relationships with various communities. 

“South L.A. is always one of the highlights of CicLAvia’s schedule,” said CicLAvia Executive Director Romel Pascual. “On Western Avenue, L.A.’s dynamic culture can be seen in the local businesses and restaurants, cultural institutions and public art that are on the route. We are reminded of what makes our city a remarkable and special place.”

This year, participants will experience five miles of car-free open streets along Western Avenue between Exposition Boulevard to the north and Century Boulevard to the south.

The neighborhoods along the route include Vermont Square, Harvard Park, Chesterfield Square, Exposition Park and King Estates, for the public to jog, walk, skate, scooter and bike along the open space.

Along those routes are various neighborhood businesses, which include DAG Riders Bicycle Shop, a 12-year-old, family-owned business located at 7018 S. Western Ave.  A second DAG, which opened a year ago, is located at 16724 Hawthorne Blvd. in Lawndale.

The Western Avenue shop, which sells used bikes for $120-$200 and new bikes for $300-$400, is owned by Dereius Gaines, 25, and his father, Derald Gaines.

“We are located smack dab in the middle of CicLAvia,” said Dereius Gaines. “Participating in the event brings a lot of awareness to our business. This kind of event opens people’s perspectives about how they can have fun outdoors. 

“It’s time to disconnect from technology. I’d advise people to get out and have a day where they connect with those who live in their area,” he added.

Gaines said his family members have participated “in the last three or four” CicLAvia’s as bike riders and as bike mechanics.

 “A lot of people bring their bikes out of the garage when they see an event going on,” said Gaines, who also helps run the DAG Riders Enterprise and Bike Shop. “They want to take part in the event.”

During the event, DAG Riders Bicycle Shop will take pre-orders for electric scooters, shirts and hats and other merchandise from the store.

“We also have an upcoming organic fruit smoothie bar opening in the Lawndale store,” Gaines said. “The plan is to have samples of the smoothies during the CicLAvia. Then we hope to have it open by July.”

Joe Ward-Wallace and his wife, Celia Ward-Wallace, are the owners of South LA Café, also located along the CicLAvia South L.A. route. The shop, which has become a cultural center, has an adjoining market. The couple owns four other stores with a fifth in the planning stage.

The Ward-Wallaces founded the shop after not being able to find a coffee shop in their South L.A. neighborhood. Joe, a retired firefighter, said all he wanted was “To be able to ride my bike to somewhere in my community to get a muffin and some coffee.”

“Every time CicLAvia South L.A. happens, it always increases our numbers,” Joe Ward-Wallace said. “It’s a double-edged sword, though because when we get more customers, we have to increase our staff from three or four to somewhere between seven and nine, to accommodate everyone.”

The last time CicLAvia South L.A. occurred, Joe Ward-Wallace, who has lived in the area all his life, said he offered free immunity shots.

“We had almost 5,000 people last time,” said Ward-Wallace whose shop is on Western and King Boulevard. “We get pretty crazy. This corner is one of the busiest in Los Angeles. We get somewhere in the tens of thousands of people going by. 

“That day we will sell plenty of water. Our location also has outside seating and bike racks. We’ll have a lot of people riding past our coffee shop on bikes and lots of people walking.”

All people-powered modes are invited to this unique temporary pop-up park for the day, which will feature activities, street games, local businesses and art and cultural activities for all ages.

CicLAvia participants just show up anywhere along the route at any time to enjoy the open streets and to take the time to explore South L.A. along the Western Avenue corridor.

CicLAvia South LA includes four hubs filled with activities and programs along the route. Hubs are walking zones (mandatory bike dismounts) and meeting points along the route with the Exposition Hub; Western Hub, which highlights the South Los Angeles Eco-Lab focused on eonomic development through climate action; the Florence Hub and the Century Hub. Hubs offer family-friendly activities, restrooms, free water refilling stations, free basic bike repair, bike parking and first aid. Free pedicab rides are available at each information booth. 

Participants can use the CicLAvia digital map to plan which businesses, local gems, activities along the route, and hubs to check out during the event. 

The event is inspired by Bogotá, Colombia’s weekly ciclovía, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2024.

CicLAvia’s car-free streets connect the neighborhoods where people live, work, shop, learn and play.

Over the past 13-plus years CicLAvia has helped communities re-imagine a greener and cleaner Los Angeles, while also promoting equitable transportation options, healthier lifestyles and closer connections to the community. 

Only people-powered vehicles are allowed. Participants assume all known and unknown risks of participation in CicLAvia.

The 2024 CicLAvia schedule continues Aug. 18 with CicLAvia–Meet the Hollywoods; Sept. 15 with CicLAmini–Lincoln Heights; Oct. 13 with CicLAvia–Heart of LA; and Dec. 8 with CicLAvia–The Valley.

More information regarding participants’ rights can be found at: https://www.ciclavia.org/ciclavia-safety

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

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