The Sounds of CicLAvia


Silence blankets CicLAvia but you never hear anyone talk about it.  We live in a city of rumbles and grumbles.  The rumbles of cars and trucks grinding along miles of city streets.  Fumes pumping from the exhausts of vehicles driven by people who fume and grumble over being stuck on those streets, physically miles from home and mentally miles from each other, even though only separated by thin layers of metal and glass. That is the noise we deal with every day. Every day but CicLAvia Sunday.

Listen. Those sounds aren’t there on CicLAvia Sunday. For seven hours, the mechanical trappings of the modern world disappear. A natural silence takes its place. Instead of having an auditory assault of things made by humans we are sent back to a simpler sound. A purer sound. Human voices. And when you hear those voices, you look and can see the faces behind them: young, old, different colors, different histories, different neighborhoods and different lives. For one day all equal and united under a temporarily silent city sky.

Sure, it’s not complete silence. We get to hear the gentle whoosh of bike tires on pavement and the huffing of the people behind the pedal. There’s music. Lots and lots of music. From storefronts and stages, to street musicians and strolling singers. There’s the shuffle of feet from pedestrians and the bounce of skateboards over bumps. The din of people ordering food and the wondrous questions from passersby wanting to know what smells so good.

Laughter is the biggest exception to silence at CicLAvia. Laughter from children in strollers and people in wheelchairs, from teens on bikes and from adults joyously reliving the freedom of younger days. The sound isn’t always pleasant. There are shouts of, “Slow traffic move to the right!” and “Watch where you’re going!” But those flashes are brief as people return to marveling over the diverse sights along the route and the creatively-dressed people around them.

Listening to other people doesn’t start at 9:00 a.m. on CicLAvia Sunday. For the Heart of LA route, the listening began well over a year ago when Metro heard the demand for more open streets events across Los Angeles County. The transit agency responded with $4 million in funding for events around the region, including this CicLAvia route.

The East LA Civic Center hub is going to thrive with activity because the County of Los Angeles wants people to hear about all the wonderful things happening in East LA. Visitors there will catch the sounds of local bands and can enjoy talking with the vendors of the local farmers market. The hub will benefit greatly from lululemon athletica listening to their own core values of positively influencing the community. As the rest of CicLAvia takes off in a rush of activity, lululemon will slow things down with meditation areas and a yoga class led by a former NFL star. Not to be too mellow, they also will offer free bike shares, and an obstacle course with equipment hacked from every day objects, not the expensive equipment one finds in gyms.

The sounds of Boyle Heights will fall upon the ears of people passing through the Mariachi Plaza hub. Yes, there will be mariachis. But, there will also be local organizations talking about how they benefit the community, and entertainers sharing their Boyle Heights pride.

In the Broadway theater district, two historic movie houses which now lay silent – the Tower Theater and the Los Angeles Theatre – will open their doors to reveal the glorious interiors from the days when they were the talk of the town. The Bradbury building, which was home to a fictional bleak futuristic LA in the movie, “Blade Runner” will shake off the dusty darkness of that film and allow visitors to see its visionary design by the light of day. The area will hear the gleeful shouts of people towering over Broadway on the REI climbing wall and the cacophony of countless food orders inside the historic Grand Central Market.

Chinatown offers sounds of the past and sounds of the future: business that have held a rich place in the city’s culture for decades opening their doors to a new wave of patrons, while outside in the central plaza some amazing bands whose stars will only rise will set their songs upon the ears of CicLAvia participants.

Perhaps the perfect place to end this sound musing is in Echo Park. Echo echo echo… park… park… park… Solar DJs will combine the best of nature (free electricity) with energy-inducing tunes alongside the Tern Bicycles tent. Tern bikes are those collapsible beauties that fit into the back of a car for those days when you want to abandon the slow crawl of traffic for a little freedom. We’re actually giving one away (along with an REI bike and other goodies) and you can sign up at all of our hubs. For free.

Free – the pervasive word for CicLAvia. It’s a free event that frees people from their cars. Participants spend a day free from the sounds of the city and are free to see new places and meet new people. Most of all, people are free to be the best versions of themselves for an entire day.

And that is something to shout about.

 -Robert Gard
Director of Communications, CicLAvia