Irvine residents may have a unique opportunity to get pedaling next year as city leaders explore briefly shutting down some streets to allow for people-powered transportation to take center stage.

Originating in Bogota, Columbia, ciclovia (Spanish for cycleway) is an open streets event that allows residents and visitors to explore the community in a different way, whether it’s by walking, biking or roller skating. Ciclovia events have been hosted in multiple cities worldwide, including locally in Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Los Angeles.

Still in the preliminary planning stages, Irvine leaders are hoping to add such an event, named “CiclaIrvine,” to the 2024 calendar.

Early planning details show the event could feature vendors, music and other nonvehicular movements of people and “turn the asphalt into a public space, quasi park,” city staffers said during a council meeting earlier this month.

Bill Sellin, communications coordinator at Bicycle Club Irvine, welcomed the news. Sellin and his fellow cyclists have taken the train to Los Angeles to attend its CicLAvia event, calling it an “incredible experience.”

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Open street events push for pedaling

While Orange County does not have the same biking culture as Los Angeles, Sellin said, ciclovia events bring in people from different communities, not just cyclists.

“The open streets concept is kind of the idea of taking back the streets for human beings. It’s not just there for the cars,” Sellin said of roadways. “Having people of all sorts — on feet, on rollerblades, in wheelchairs, on skateboards, on roller skates, on scooters, on bicycles — all just sharing the road, it just feels like a party. It feels like a festival.”

Caregivers would not be comfortable with children riding scooters or tricycles in the middle of the street, Sellin said, but with road closures, the streets “become a big playground.”

Sellin joined the Bicycle Club Irvine in 1981, when it was first formed, as its second member. The club has grown steadily, now boasting nearly 5,200 members. It organizes rides every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, attracting between 35 to 55 members each time.

An event like CiclaIrvine can get more people interested in cycling, said Sellin.

Echoing his words is William Go, a Great Park resident. Go hopes ciclovia will make more people start cycling, not just enthusiasts.

“When I get on the road, it’s scary. There (are) cars going 60 miles an hour, and I am the only one (riding my bike),” Go said. He believes more people will want to use bikes as their mode of transportation if they see more people cycling than using cars.

In his ideal world, Go said, he would build a city with two lanes: one for cars and one for bicycles.

“When you’re sitting in the car and tapping on the pedal, there’s not a whole lot of exercising going on,” he said. “With cycling, even without breaking a sweat, you could easily cycle 8-10 miles an hour. If you really wanted to work your heart rate, you can definitely cycle 15-20 miles an hour.”

The cost to put on a ciclovia event in Irvine is estimated to cost the city about $200,000, city staffers said, for traffic control, detour planning, road closure and detour set up and pull down, barriers, signage and staffing.

As for the next steps, city staffers will draw up potential areas in Irvine that could work for such an event. They’ll explore what traffic detours and street closures would be needed, how will it impact people in that neighborhood, when it could be hosted and a more specific budget.

Staffers are expected to share their proposal with councilmembers in 30-60 days, said City Manager Oliver Chi.

The city “would contemplate closure for a day of a roughly two-mile stretch of city street to allow for the community to come in and experience the streets,” Chi said.

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