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LINES + LANES: Activating Public Space at CicLAvia's Grand Park Hub

To many, participation in CicLAvia means taking advantage of the miles of open streets through various non-motorized forms. At the same time, CicLAvia offers a chance to hang out at a select assortment of curated hubs along the route. The hubs for me have become something to look forward to, as they offer a chance to immerse oneself in spaces curated by community members and organizations working in the particular neighborhood where the hubs are located.

So when The Music Center asked me and a small interdisciplinary team of public space, civic engagement, art, and bicycle advocates to be part of a think tank to work with them and the Grand Park staff to shape the October 6 Grand Park Hub for CicLAvia -- I was all in.

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Discussions within the think tank ranged from the importance of bicyclists and walkers as alternative transportation to cars, the need to connect CicLAvia to healthy behavior outcomes, how to make Grand Park an icon of L.A.'s public culture, the responsibility to offer kid-friendly activities, to the commonplace goal to create a familial atmosphere that is consistent with weekend park use across the southland.

What resulted from the collaboration is The Music Center presentation of LINES + LANES -- an exploration of the intersection of L.A. culture and transit. Music Center program manager Rebecca Baillie, and assistant director of community partnerships Katherine Bonalos, see LINES + LANES as part of the center's overall program to "encourage participation in the arts as a form of civic engagement and activate public spaces in new ways." They see the LINES + LANES as a way to engage Grand Park Hub visitors through "people to people, people to art-making, and people to transit" activities.

In addition to music and food trucks that now bless the majority of CicLAvia hubs, Grand Park Hub visitors will be able to connect with other people through giant-sized checkers, chess, Connect 4, and Jenga games in the park. Hub visitors will be able to connect with their inner-artists through creating "bicycle bling" by upcycling bicycle parts, paint a mural on a truck, and contribute to a twisted balloon community sculpture. Visitors will also be able to connect with playful aspects of transit culture by creating their own personal bicycle spoke cards and test-driving pogo sticks, trikes, or scooters around a mini-track.

Site plan of Lot 4-Event Lawn of Grand Park with suggested placement of activities during The Music Center think tank meetings | Photo: George Villanueva

Grand Park Hub's set of activities shine a light on several important aspects of hub activities during CicLAvia. First is the need to curate places to gather and interact during CicLAvia. The day has become a time when L.A. becomes a small town to the routine participants, and many are able to see friends and acquaintances during the event. Hubs facilitate this "small town" feeling, as participants can hang out at a hub and expect to see other like-minded Angelenos stopping to interact at a hub.

Second, and what was heard clearly in The Music Center think tank discussions, and accommodated through programming for the Grand Park Hub, is that CicLAvia should not be a race track for bicyclists or a hipster bike affair, but should encourage time for families to enjoy open space and for kids, especially, to enjoy an expanded playground. Los Angeles is not particularly known as a family-friendly or kid-friendly city. Part of the reason is the city's inability to create family-friendly and kid-friendly public spaces; CicLAvia hub curators, such as The Music Center, aim to reverse this. As mentioned, the Grand Park hub will have a robust suite of creative and playful activities for kids. Just as important, they will be bringing in picnic tables and apparatuses to provide shade for visitors to the park.

Lastly, Grand Park is a key public space in our polycentric city of Los Angeles. Relatively new to the DTLA landscape, the park stretches from City Hall on Spring Street to The Music Center on Grand Avenue. Flanking the park, vertical-wise, are several county buildings, including the L.A. County Hall of Administration. Not many Angelenos feel connected to the halls of government that anchor the city's and county's public life. It is a hope that Angelenos who engage with the space on Sunday, come back and explore the historic institutions that surround the park. As citizens, this is their City Hall, their County Hall, their public courts of law, and their Grand Park. Angelenos should claim it as theirs by engaging more with the spaces where public decisions are being made by our elected officials. Furthermore, Angelenos should come up with their own publicly minded ideas to activate the public spaces, and create even more public use of the park beyond the occasional programmed CicLAvia hub.


Top: This section of Grand Park in between Spring Street and Broadway will be activated as LINES + LANES. Photo courtesy of Grand Park.

About the Author

George Villanueva is currently a PhD Candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.
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