Tucson's Festival Weekend

First and foremost, streets were created to provide devoted transportation routes from point A to points B through X.

But somewhere along the line—probably when that fancy Model T came off the assembly line—we forgot that transportation can consist of more than just cars, trucks and SUVs.

It's a tendency so ingrained in people today that it's almost impossible to get someone to give up their cars on a permanent basis. But for one Sunday? That's a little more attainable, and something that's managed to take foot in Tucson the last few years.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary this Sunday, Cyclovia Tucson has quickly blossomed into one of the city's most anticipated annual events. Approximately 5,000 people participated in the daylong conversion of downtown streets into car-free zones in 2010, and event coordinator Kylie Walzak hopes that number will reach 20,000 this weekend.

"It usually takes a long time to get the word out for new events, especially in Tucson because we're so spread out," Walzak said.

Cyclovia is a concept first formulated in Bogota, Colombia, where every Sunday and every holiday as many as 70 miles' worth of streets are shut down to cars and trucks so that residents can walk, bike and just roam about to enjoy their community at a leisurely pace.

The Tucson route is far smaller, encompassing just a 5-mile loop from Broadway and 6th Avenue down to 36th Street and 4th Avenue, then over to 8th Avenue along 34th Street and back up 8th to Cushing Street and 13th Avenue. 18th Street is also closed off, though there are several intersections where police will be on hand to allow for vehicular crossings, as needed.

It's not a long route, but that's by design, said Walzak.

"This is about encouraging people to substitute car trips for destinations that are two miles or less," she said. "We really market heavily this event to the people who live along this route. Literally, people will get in their cars and drive two blocks to get to a neighbor's house."

While the general theme is open streets, Cyclovia is far more than that. Entertainment will abound throughout the route, whether it be activities set up by event organizers or by residents who just decide to take advantage of the opportunity.

"People organize brunch when they live on the route," Walzak said. "People build their day around it."

And so are other event planners and businesses, a sign that Cyclovia's growth has caught on.

Besides the street closure itself, several other festivals and gatherings are planned along or just adjacent to the route:

South Tucson is holding its Feria du Sur Tucson street fair from 12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday along the city's restaurant row (4th Avenue between 29th and 36th streets).

The Tucson Hullaballoo, which runs all day Saturday and Sunday, will take over Armory Park and showcase "a celebration of all things Tucson," according to its website. It's an offshoot of a festival first started in Flagstaff, and costs $5 but is free each day to the first 500 people who bring cans of food.

The Color the Mural project, funded by a grant to the Safos Dance Theater, invites anyone and everyone to help paint a mural along 8th Avenue in South Tucson on Sunday

"We love that people are taking the initiative to do other events they think would fit well with Cyclovia," Walzak said.

Walzak said the opinions of people who have attended past Tucson Cyclovias is showing that the tide is turning toward wanting to be less dependent on cars. She said a survey conducted in conjunction with the Pima Association of Government showed that 75 percent of people asked during last year's festival were likely to change their behavior toward always driving.

One reason people have cited as wanting to always drive, Walzak said, is fear of being out on the streets alone. After attending Cyclovia, she said, she hopes more people would change their tune.

"If more of us got out of our cars and walked more places, we'd be less scared," she said.