There is just something about walking—and there is a specific reason that I chose to walk to the newest version of the CicLAvia rather than join what seemed like hundreds of thousands of bicyclists.
Now mind you, it is always hard to understand this point about the power of walking: we are continually inundated with speed and it is important to examine it (or what philosopher Paul Virilio called “dromology,” the study of speed: “[A]cceleration has been the prime cause of the proliferation of major accidents”). We, as humans, have always felt the need to do what we do faster—beyond stronger, beyond smarter, beyond more efficient: just faster.
And it is the delicate things in life we miss when we engage in that, particularly how incredibly removed the world is from human scale.
The point of a ciclovía supersedes just transferring the privileges of a car to a bike or a skater or… It is also suppose to provide power to the human as a simple tool; that we, in and of ourselves, are tools of power. And forgive the grandiose idea that I believe a human—without much beyond its physical form—is a grandiose form in and of itself.
It really is.
Why more people should take to the streets sans their vehicle is to simply remind others of how their environment was created. Urban centers aren’t the Rockies, they are not Yosemite, and they are not the vast stretches of Death Valley. They are entirely manufactured by humanity—and that is what makes their beauty so specific and unique. It is what causes every person to pause at the skyline of a major city: it is something that doesn’t exist in nature and yet grew precisely out of it through humanity.
So I took to the heed of CicLAvia organizers, who touted this route as the most walkable yet, and hit the pavement with my feet. I am, after all, an avid walker—though that was never necessarily by choice: having to sell my car to help pay for my masters, I bought a bike which was eventually stolen which in turn forced me to use my feet. It was single-handedly one of the best and most life-altering things I was forced to do: explore my city by foot. It was through this exploration that I hit the harsh reality that we do had stopped created urban centers for humans: there was not a single thing to help dwarf the sense that one was a meandering amoeba in search of accessibility.
This thought was on repeat for the vast majority on the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that was closed to all things new urbanist for a day. Heading west from its most easterly point—the main hub downtown, walking in the middle of one of the most iconic roadways in LA was both exhilarating and diminishing: exhilarating to see my feet where tired roll daily and diminishing in the fact that I still felt enormously small. And though there were many visual perks along the way—Macarthur Park and KTown being obvious highlights—there was still a corporate feel to the stretch that made me wish I was going faster.
And as I saw the furrowed brows and quiet scoffs of the bicyclists who had to pause, slow down, or outright stop for pedestrians—something I am sometimes guilty of as I race through Long Beach—it was a quick reminder that even beyond just getting out of our cars, every now and then we should get off our bikes.
Though the frustrated bicylists’ reactions to being slowed down sparked the idea that we need to be on our feet more, the idea was smacked outta the ball park at one particular moment: two lovers, pausing in the middle of the street—something that could have never been done were it not for CicLAvia. With bikes zooming around them, they can leaned in, whispered something into each others’ ears, and kissed, smiles plastered on their faces before they looked around, in awe at the speeding two-wheelers around them, and hopped back on their bikes to continue riding. It was a moment where I myself had to pause and watch (not to mention be a slight voyeur and capture the moment on camera).
I once said that there is a mutual understanding that urban, dense environments are going to provide discomforts—parking constraints, occasional noise interruptions to your quiet living room, traffic—but that the vibrancy of the urban ballet, as long as it is safe and ripe with human activity, far outweighs those concerns. Part of that ballet is just being human—and I mean that in its physical sense: using your two feet and walking. “The passions have been sufficiently interpreted; the point now is to discover new ones,” in the words of a Frenchman. The passions—biking infrastructure, clearing the public real estate of its preference towards machines rather than humans, clustering together as humans—have been identified but now it is time to take the next step (literally).
Go on a dérive. Feel small. Ignore the destinations—betrayals if there ever were any. Stop for a kiss, be it with your lover or the environment, making traffic go around you and notice you and recognize you. Make the city yours: that is what the city is there for.
Photos by Brian Addison.