‘Ciclovia’ stirs communal collaboration
Two young girls clad in brightly patterned helmets held hands yesterday morning as they whizzed down the middle of George Street on rollerblades, unconcerned with traffic.
For the first time, New Brunswick, known for its flow of scurrying pedestrians and clouds of exhaust, closed off more than three miles of street yesterday for “Ciclovia,” an event that closes roads to all cars so people can use them however they please.
From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., George Street, Joyce Kilmer Avenue, College Avenue and portions of Bayard Street and Hamilton Street were used for biking, skating, walking and running. The event also offered free dance, yoga and Zumba classes.
“Ciclovia” is an internationally recognized event in 200 cities. Guillermo Penalosa organized the first Ciclovia in Bogota, Colombia in the 1970s. Penalosa was formerly the commissioner for Bogota’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where he said the roads could be used for purposes other than driving.
“[This] is a public space,” he said. “How are we going to distribute public space? No one said that streets were built for cars. They’re for people.”
Penalosa also heads the nonprofit, 8-80 Cities, which aims to create safer, more secure communities built around people.
“What if everything we did in New Brunswick’s streets, sidewalks, parks and public places was safe, and that the indicator was that it had to be great for an eight year old and an 80 year old?” he said. “We’d end up with great communities for everyone.”
Penalosa said cities should focus on making communities safer for individuals on both ends of the age spectrum, especially with the advent of new technologies that allow humans to live longer.
“It’s very clear that we know how to survive, but now we need to know how to live,” he said.
Penalosa wants to make cities safer by upping and maintaining high standards and improving and preserving the health of citizens in all cities by living healthy.
He said “Ciclovia” is an excellent initiative for any city to adopt because it involves no capital costs or new infrastructure — it only needs community and political will.
New Brunswick Tomorrow, a local nonprofit, introduced “Ciclovia” to the city, said Jeffrey Vega, the president of the organization.
NBT worked with the New Brunswick Development Corporation to bring both physical and social revitalization to the community.
Vega said Leadership Tomorrow, a program under NBT, hatched the idea to bring the event to New Brunswick. The program works with residents of the community to bring events that will benefit everyone in the city.
The proposal was taken to New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, the city council and various organizations, he said. Cahill, serving as mayor since 1991, has been vying to make the city more health care oriented.
“We’re hoping to foster a culture of health and wellness in New Brunswick and build upon the success that we’ve already had and hope that the people understand that the streets belong to them,” Vega said.
Cahill, who assisted with the opening ceremonies on George Street, discussed the atmosphere he hoped “Ciclovia” would create.
“A big part of what we’re doing today isn’t just getting on our bikes or walking about or rollerblading somewhere. … It’s a chance perhaps for us to see a different part of the city [or] see it in a different way,” he said.
Russell Marchetta, spokesman for New Brunswick, said the event intends to act as a community collaborative.
“Having a healthy citizenry makes for a healthy city,” he said. “The whole thing is to be active and interact with your neighbors and friends because it’s a great opportunity for social interaction in an active way.”
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