CicLAvia Needs to Happen at Night

Great that it happened just because it created a public space for LA. And it was good to see the work of a few good friends come to fruition.

More than I can say about myself. I give credit to those that actually make something like this, with no precedent here, happen. That took some amount of elbow-pulling, twisting, and different kinds of contortion.

CicLAvia is overwhelmingly a space that absolutely needs to happen, frequently. I think it's any piece of public space is a great infrastructure for community-building.

However, I want to propose an add-on to CicLAvia that I think could go a long way in really building up the community. Something that could help drop crime even more, but more importantly something that attempts to reach da yutes of LA, particularly the youth of color. And it's real simple:

CicLAvia needs to happen at night.

Somewhat in the same vein as the Midnight Ridazz, and Critical Mass rides. However, I don't think it should be dominated as much by bicyclists.

Ala my buddy Jane Jacobs, I'm thinking of a CicLAvia that includes more pedestrians, more points of engagement for people, at night, when there is very little safe public space at all.

I'm thinking of the open fiesta that is the Central Avenue Jazz Festival. I'm thinking the claiming of spaces by various organizations in Park(ing) Day LA. I'm thinking the social scene of the Art Walk for the 20 somethings. I'm also thinking very prominently about Antonio Villaraigosa's Saturday Night Lights anti-gang program for youth and their families.

Why does CicLAvia need to happen at night?

Well, I'm quite tired of the nights of LA being reserved for adults with money. The dance club, the nightclubs, the bars, the gourmet food trucks, the frozen sugar injections, movies, bowling alley, hoity toity museums.

What do we do in those night-time spaces in LA? Talk. Drink. Eat. Smoke.

Lots of privatized, not really all that active activities.

Meanwhile, past 10 PM public parks are closed. This means that the kids who were just kicking it and skateboarding, must kick push to another place.

Public libraries shut down at 6. This means that the homeless people at Central Library gotta get the fuck out of there and go to some shelter or the street corner outside of Busby's. Or better yet in front of your local 7-11, a space he occupies like a void, where you can just learn how to filter the individual's humanity out of your talking, eating, drinking, smoking level of consciousness.

Places of free, spontaneous community convergence during the day time are suddenly dark, desolate potential crime spaces.

Our nights in LA are monopolized by private spaces. The spots of activity are suddenly concentrated into privatized, insular spaces. Whether it's the Standard downtown or Suehiro in the latenight, your entrance and access to those spaces, establishments are mediated only by money (or favors) if you have any to exchange.

The key to your entrance anywhere is having money (or favors) to exchange. A lot of youth, particularly the colored ones whether you're in Central Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, Van Nuys and above, East Los, (me too) don't have a lot of money to exchange.

There are very few spaces in LA at night that are free. There's the Tuesday Night Cafe, the Zocalo and ALOUD public lectures, events at universities and colleges, and Art Walk. Each cool in their own right, but all infrequent, and random, usually targeted towards adults, and particular kinds of adults at that. The events at night are either for the 20-30 something in the case of the open mics and the artsy stuff, or if it's some kind of public lecture it's for white people old enough to excrete dust particles when they are ready to deposit their #2's.

A downtown LA at night with no Artwalk or other big event features closed doors, gates, homeless and "sketchy" individuals.

So let's put this altogether:

  • There isn't much public space in Los Angeles in general, and even fewer at night with the closure of parks and libraries.
  • Activities are very limited, and not very active, and Americans are fat fucking bastards.
  • Private space overwhelmingly monopolizes and characterizes LA at night; it's a purely adult, privatized, disconnected mass of dystopia of borders and isolation, breeding grounds for "deviance."
  • Youth don't have a lot of money and don't have many places to go at night.

CicLAvia at night could be something to tackle these various problems. Preventative, and yet absolutely engaging and enthralling social infrastructure. An open space at night created by people and a free community event that could encourage youths to get out, be cool, be safe in a safe space.

The whole reason I even propose the night is for the youths, particularly the "latchkey" ones. The ones that are out and about after after-school hours.

I think outreach could be done to those youth intervention programs, and hell include the high school clubs, and whatever else. The great thing about putting this outreach in the great mass that is CicLAvia is that the event doesn't have to center around just that or them. They're just in with the rest of Angelenos who want to enjoy their streets and public spaces at the time of day when were culturally expected to be in exclusively private spaces.

As much as crime has been falling, crime could fall even more. CicLAvia on a Sunday morning needed tons of police; the police handle most incidents at night. They police will be out there already and the kids and the cameras so it's a shared visibility space. If you took a panopticonish view, it would be like a midnight nightwatch of streets, but done with fun and a lot more community involvement.

And that's where Mayor Villaraigosa's Saturday Night Lights program catches on. He began his Saturday Night Lights program last summer as an anti-gang program. His program kept parks open till late. Result, 2009 was the safest summer since 1967.

Except his program was concentrated exclusively at parks.

I wonder how much more crime could be reduced if he had the streets as well as the parks for this.

The CicLAvia at night would be a way for masses of different people to reclaim their streets at the time of day when it isn't expected to be claimed.

1 comment:

Ezra said...

This was a great article... I think we've got a lot of work ahead of us to win over the general populous with this idea, but I'm with you. Take back the night, and you'll see people of all ages engaged, and crime will drop.