Opening Up the Streets

Cyclovia Tucson, Sunday, March 18

Cyclovia is back for its third year of helping to make Tucson's streets friendlier for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Cyclovia (pronounced "see-clo-VEE-ah," although organizer Emily Yetman of Tucson's Living Streets Alliance said she's heard five or six variations) is based on a weekly tradition in Bogota, Colombia. Streets there are closed to motor vehicles, allowing the public to ride, socialize and play—without the usual noise, pollution and fear of injury that comes with riding bikes on city streets.

The Living Streets Alliance has arranged for a number of streets in the downtown area to be closed to traffic, creating a vehicle-free area for thousands of Tucsonans to enjoy, if only for a few hours. The event includes five activity "nodes" scattered along the festival route, which stretches from Broadway Boulevard and Scott Avenue, to Eighth Avenue and 38th Street.

Near the north end of the route, around Armory Park and the Children's Museum Tucson, Tucson's sun-powered festival Solar Rock will be set up.

Organized by the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Solar Rock is intended to educate the community about the power of renewable solar energy. A rock concert with five bands will feature equipment powered entirely by the sun.

"All of the music equipment is powered by a solar trailer—basically, a large battery with wheels and solar panels," said Coley Ward, the marketing and membership manager at Food Conspiracy.

Solar Rock also will include a number of side events, such as a "free-meet," a "surprisingly powerful" solar oven from Citizens for Solar, and demonstrations by the Physics Factory, which counts University of Arizona math professor Bruce Bayly—"the English Mr. Wizard," according to Ward—among its instructors.

Ward said food trucks will be set up at Armory Park, as will vendors including Renee's Organic Oven, Tucson Tamale Company and the co-op's own Conspiracy Kitchen. Ward said he's especially excited about the solar-powered Isabella's Ice Cream vintage truck, which missed the 2011 event.

"Last year, they were pretty new," he said. "I hadn't heard of them until about a day before the event. I was like, 'Man, how can there be a solar-powered ice cream truck in this town, and they're not at Solar Rock?' It just seemed like such a missed opportunity."

Other food trucks and vendors, including Foodie Fleet, Mr. K's Barbecue and Cyclopsicle, will be stationed at activity nodes along the Cyclovia route. Also on hand will be the popular "fur-and-flower" bike-decoration stations, whose idea originated with local artist (and occasional Tucson Weekly contributor) Janet Miller, according to Yetman.

"For weeks after, you'll see kids out riding with furry bikes," Yetman said.

Bike-repair stations at each node will help with minor fixes. The nodes will also feature bike parking (both do-it-yourself and valet) if you want to walk. BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage) will have rentals available for people who don't have a two-wheeler handy for the event.

About 5,000 people attended the first Cyclovia Tucson in 2010. Last year, about 10,000 people attended, and Yetman is hoping the number will double again this year.

Yetman said it costs about $60,000 to stage Cyclovia. Much of the funding comes from in-kind donations of labor and public-service announcements, but Pima County recently agreed to provide $15,000 a year for the next three years. "If everyone who came to the event pitched in $5, we'd be covered (to put on multiple events)," Yetman said.

Group rides to Cyclovia are suggested from locations such as Himmel Park, Christopher Columbus Park, and Keeling Elementary School, 2837 N. Los Altos Ave. Escorts will be provided by the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association and the Pima County Bike Ambassadors.

One of the great things about Cyclovia is that it appeals to potential bike-riders who are "interested, but concerned," Yetman said.

"These events are really great ways to provide a setting for inexperienced riders to come out and give it a try," she said. "It's a pretty effective way to get people out on their bikes."

Yetman emphasized that although Cyclovia means "bike path" in Spanish, it isn't only for bicyclists.

"Cyclovia's really about opening the streets up for people," she said. "It's for biking, jump-roping ... you name it. It's about bringing the streets back to life."