Trade in your seatbelts for helmets
Civlovia, free outdoor event encourages healthy living, community
New Jerseyans take it slow on Sundays, especially when the weather gets nice. People bring their drop tops out of storage and go for a spin around the block, or down to the shore. But what if this wasn’t common? What if everyone decided to keep the cars in their garage, opt for a thinner set of wheels and set out on a bike ride? Ciclovia, an outdoor event that encourages movement, seeks to do just that.
Translated from Spanish to English, "ciclovia" means “cycleway.” Originating in Colombia, the idea behind Ciclovia is to shut down main roads and streets in an effort to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. During Ciclovia events, which traditionally take place on Sundays, streets are closed to vehicular traffic in an effort to boost desire to walk, bike, skateboard and run. The event has now spread to at least fourteen countries including the United States. Along with major cities in the nation, New Brunswick began hosting Ciclovia in 2013. Held three times a year, the local Ciclovia event shuts down portions of College Avenue, George Street and Joyce Kilmer Avenue. Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., people are invited to bike, jump in inflatable bouncy houses, take part in Zumba classes and more.
Guillermo Penalosa, who organized the first ciclovia event in Colombia, challenges the notion of public spaces and their purpose. He said, “No one said that streets were built for cars. They’re for people.” Specifically in America, cars dominate the streets. People who choose to ride bikes or skateboard are squeezed into bike lanes, and foot traffic becomes crowded onto sidewalks. But it doesn’t have to be that way: people and cars can share the streets and common spaces. There is a trend toward making public areas more pedestrian and biker friendly, and as towns and cities begin to pay more attention to health standards and the importance of being outside, more bike lanes are being created. Similarly, more farmers markets and outdoor food truck events are hosted during the spring and summer months, encouraging individuals to get outside and walk instead of driving to their destinations.
Ciclovia is a communal approach to getting everyone outside and moving. Now that spring has officially sprung, students and people from the New Brunswick community alike are more inclined to get outside and get moving. Yesterday’s Ciclovia event was the first in New Brunswick for this year, drawing crowds not only from the surrounding community, but from the Rutgers student body as well. Ciclovia is the one event on-campus that bridges the largest gaps between students and citizens of New Brunswick. A vast majority of the Rutgers population spend their time on the College Avenue campus, never venturing past off-campus housing on Easton Avenue. But the culture that exists around the University is as rich and diverse as the students that attend school here. Yet, out of fear or disinterest, students often choose to forgo interaction with the community around them.
Similarly, the outdoor cycle event also highlights the importance of urban planning with exercise and the need for fresh air. As Rutgers continues to grow and expand both outward and upward, encroaching into the surrounding neighborhoods is quickly becoming a question. With all of the modern day technological advances, staying inside is incredibly enticing. However, breathing some fresh air every now and then, especially on foot rather than through a window, is incredibly important.
Ciclovia is a vital communal event that bridges gaps, meshes cultures and encourages movement. In New Brunswick, the small traffic jams created by the event pale in comparison to the health benefits and building of relationships among community members. The next Ciclovia will be held in June, but until then, explore your surroundings, drive a little less and cycle away.