The Unexpected Beauty of Car-Free City Streets (Video)

©. April Streeter

Fora do Eixo/CC BY-SA 2.0

H.G. Wells was quoted as saying that the sight of an adult on a bicycle gave him hope for the future of the human race. I feel the same about ciclovías, those wonderful big-city events in which streets usually packed with cars get cordoned off for all types of wheeling and walking citizens.

Cyclovías originated in Bogotá, Columbia 35 years ago, part of an effort to make that city friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce the dominance of automobiles.

Bogotá’s sustainably-minded former mayor Enrique Peñalosa made ciclovías popular starting in the 1990s, and helped to stimulate the spread of ciclovías worldwide (though they are sometimes named something different, such as Portland's Sunday Parkways or LA's CicLAvia. One of the beautiful thing about the ciclovías in Bogotá and Lima, for example, is that they happen each week, and draw thousands upon thousands. In the U.S. the events are usually just a couple of times, during the summer.

In the video, the streets of Guadalajara, which has 64 kilometers of closed streets each Sunday, are featured. Filmed by Sheila of Sheila and Kai, a couple biking the world to live their dream, this nearly five minute video is a sweet treat because of the way Sheila captures the streets with people on bikes, skates, skateboards and on foot, occupying them. They form a contrast to the noisy, chaotic, and stress-filled streets that are generally filled with cars day and night in most big cities.

Luckily, the ciclovía movement is still expanding. Take a look at all the cities (and this list is by no means definitive).