Revenge of the Bicycles

Cyclovia Tucson takes to the streets of Tucson, April 7

Kylie Walzak can't wait to wear the costume she recently finished making for Cyclovia Tucson. It's a rainbow-colored tutu made in shades of neon.

Walzak will also attach a bubble machine and speakers to her bike.

"So I'm going to be like a one-person, rainbow tutu-bubble machine with music coming out of my bike, and I'm so excited to see what everybody else brings out and what kinds of costumes and ideas they have," said Walzak, coordinator of this year's Cyclovia Tucson.

The annual street festival is inspired by the people of Bogota, Colombia. Since the 1970s, more than 75 miles of streets in Bogota are closed every Sunday and holiday so people can walk, bike or ride anything but a car in the streets.

Though on a much smaller scale—the route is 4 1/2 miles long—Cyclovia Tucson also promotes a day of car-free fun. Because they aren't used to riding a bike in the middle of the street, participation builds slowly, but by 11 a.m., the party is going full blast.

Stations are set up along the route where people can decorate their bikes, take a fitness class, play games or do arts and crafts. A "pop-up skate park" is also available for those who skateboard.

And those not riding bikes can be dancing in the streets instead, with music provided by DJs from local clubs.

New to this year's event is Cyclovia Street Life, "a series of performances, installations, sculptures and soundscapes connected with an interactive rubber-stamp treasure hunt," according to a Cyclovia press release. Walzak went to 14 artists and asked them to create works that explore street life, community building, health and wellness, and fun. The artists came up with various ideas, including a painted piano that will be placed in the middle of an intersection, available for people to play.

Another artist will offer a "learn to ballet with your bicycle" class at the festival.

People can also get a passport and have it stamped at various places during a treasure hunt. The interactive activity is inspired by an old pastime called Letterboxing.

"In our daily, busy lives where we spend most of our time in cars getting around, we miss a lot of details," Walzak said. "And so by doing this Letterboxing activity in Cyclovia it encourages people to slow down and take a look at their surroundings and take in all the details and be really observant about what's around them."

Other Cyclovia highlights include a bike rodeo, a puppet show and an obstacle course.

"All of it is really encouraging people to interact with the street, interact with the environment immediately around the street and interact with each other along the event and the route," Walzak said.

Food will also be available at various spots along the route, with at least a dozen food trucks on hand.

Cyclovia Tucson will be held twice this year, with a second festival April 28 in midtown Tucson. The two block parties will feature slightly different activities because some of the DJs, performers and artists aren't available for both events. The goal of an added day is to keep Cyclovia growing, and add more routes throughout the city.

"We'd like to bring this event to as many different neighborhoods as we can," Walzak said.

The goal is to show people how relatively close certain locations are to their homes.

"We want to get people to really think about using the bicycle more often," Walzak said.

Cyclovia Tucson is part of Bike-Fest, a monthlong celebration of the bike that includes organized bike rides, ride-your-bike-to-work days and incentives for riding a bike to work.

"We take away the threat of the car for a day so that people who want to ride their bikes more can," Walzak said.

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