El Paso, Texas is a big city (pop. 600,000) without much buzz outside of UTEP, and even worse, it had a less than envious reputation, according to one local representative, “City leaders were faced with a challenge: to get a poor city of overweight, sedentary people moving when there weren’t any parks or [bicycle] lanes. A national magazine declared the city one of the four fattest in the US, and that really got everyone’s attention.”
Welcome Ciclovia! Starting this month, the City will close several miles of road to cars each Sunday morning throughout the summer. The ciclovia (bike path) passes right through the city and is open to, well, anything but driving. So why the excitement?
The original ciclovia was founded in Bogota, Colombia (pictured) in 1983, which now hosts 70 miles of roads closed every Sunday to cars. That event attracts one-and-a-half million people each week, spurring other Latin American cities to follow, some closing entire urban districts to vehicles. The idea was such an economic success that city merchants such as in Guadalahara, Mexico actually began opening their shops on Sunday to cater to customers they never had.
According to this article, the program is trending in the U.S. as well:
- Golden Gate Park in San Francisco will close down yet another stretch of road for pedestrian/bike traffic only.
- New York is is looking to do the same for its Central Park and Brooklyn Prospect Park perimeter roads.
- Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago are planning car-free days in public parks with the idea of making it more permanent.
- Davenport, IA, and Huntington Beach, CA are establishing car-free zones.