Fresno residents might remember last October when vehicular traffic was temporarily eliminated for one day on Ventura Avenue between Cedar and First Streets. This closure wasn’t due to road work— it was the result of efforts from the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition in partnership with Cultiva La Salud, and Bici Projects, and a grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation to establish the Fresno Open Streets CenCalVia project.
CenCalVia was inspired by the weekly Ciclovia event in Bogota, Colombia, which began in 1974 and is based on the idea of using a community’s shared streets as a “paved park” space for physical activity such as biking, skating, and dancing. The idea has since spread across the world to Argentina, Copenhagen, Belgium, Canada, and the United States. Numerous cities in California have held Ciclovia-inspired events, with CenCalVia the first to serve the Central Valley.
An estimated 1,200 people enjoyed a variety of activities at CenCalVia. In addition to biking, jogging, and skateboarding, attendees also received free lessons for salsa, Zumba, and African dance, as well as participated in creative physical games. There was no shortage of entertainment, as local multicultural performers of all ages provided music and dance to guests.
The main goal of CenCalVia was to promote healthy and active lifestyles in the Central Valley. The city of Fresno ranks 74th among the 75 largest U.S. cities with regards to park acreage and access to green space, according to national studies conducted by the Trust for Public Lands. Utilizing this space means increasing opportunities for safe outdoor activity, an important aspect of public health, and an integral part of the Fresno County Bicycling Coalition’s mission. It’s no surprise, then, that CenCalVia also offered informational resources from health and social service organizations to event attendees, and free services to ensure safe bicycle riding. In total, local bicycling groups repaired over 80 bicycles in 4 hours, equipped bicycles with safety lights, and fitted almost 400 children with free helmets.
This one day event had significant positive impacts on the community. According to CenCalVia organizers, “What was normally a busy commercial street with fast-moving traffic became an urban park where people could enjoy spending time together outdoors. Children were ecstatic at the opportunity to ride their bikes in the street with no traffic. Entire families rode their bikes together up and down the one mile Open Street. Even the elderly residents were out with their walkers and wheelchairs, amazed at what was going on in their neighborhood.”
The Fresno County Bicycling Coalition hopes to host additional CenCalVia events in the near future. To view more photos from last year’s event, and to learn more about the Fresno County Bicycling Coalition, please visit the CenCalVia Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cencalvia, and the Fresno County Bicycling Coalition’s website at www.fresnobike.org.
The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to sponsor projects such as CenCalVia through our competitive grant program. For information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page on our website.