Wes Reitimann must feel a little snake bit after the first attempt at staging the largest ciclovia-type event in U.S. history last summer was cancelled at the last minute due to fires in the area, and a second effort Sunday was dampened to some degree by rainy weather.
Five days out, the region was looking forward to 10 days of sun, then “out of nowhere a rainstorm was scheduled for the event,” explained Reitimann, the executive director of Bike San Gabriel Valley, and a key organizer behind the 626 Golden Streets that experienced wet weather for about 90 minutes during the heart of the event.
Despite the rain, it was nothing but fun for the thousands of bicyclists, runners, walkers, those pushing strollers and riding skateboards along the 18-mile car-free stretch from South Pasadena to Azusa.
The impact of the Twin fires above Azusa and Duarte, which would have forced participants to breathe unhealthful air in near 100-degree heat, was enough for organizers to force cancellation of last year’s 626 three days prior to the scheduled June 26 event. It was designed to celebrate the 11.5-mile Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa, making new station stops in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa.
Prior to this year’s event, Reutimann noted, not only was rain forecast for Sunday but the specific time of the event, strangely from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Unscathed for about the first three hours, the rain soaked the route for about 90 minutes starting at about 12:30 p.m., forcing many participants to duck for cover, pulling out ponchos and umbrellas.
“I had to keep reminding myself, ‘there’s only so much you can do,” said Reutimann, in response to the rain.
Sunday’s event was held on the 1-year anniversary of the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa. It kicked off with the 9 a.m. opening ceremonies held in front of South Pasadena’s light rail station at Mission Street and Meridian Avenue. On hand were about 20 dignitaries, including mayors and representatives from participating cities, along with county and state officials.
South Pasadena’s Alan Ehrlich, one of the participants, was prepared to ride his bicycle the distance from South Pasadena to Azusa and back, pleased there were no automobiles along the way. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It shows that people can get around Los Angeles without a car.”
626 Golden Streets took an estimated 50,000 people to major roads usually traveled by automobiles through seven communities past six Gold Line stations, all providing food and entertainment. About a dozen vendors set up temporary shops along Mission Street in South Pasadena, providing information on everything from high speed rail to what to do in an emergency.
Getting people out of cars and using other modes of transportation was enough for many was worth the long days for organizers to make Sunday’s event a success. “Years of planning,” said Reutimann to what it took to put the event together. “It’s nice to see it happen. Obviously, with the cancellation last year we were very disappointed. A lot of money was sunk into that event that couldn’t be recouped, and we had to go back to the drawing board to stage it again in March.”
South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti said Sunday’s 626 Golden Streets “was beyond our wildest dreams,” agreeing with Reutimann, that it was a long haul to see it come to fruition. “People will discover that they really can get out of their cars and by riding their bikes, walking, running, skateboarding and pushing strollers they can help clean up the air and get rid of pollution,” he explained. “Hopefully, we can do more of these in the future.”
No obstacles in front of them, except fellow cyclists, walkers joggers and families enjoying the great outdoors, was enough for many to take part in in Sunday’s 626 and to weather the storm – literally.
“I think it’s awesome to ride without any cars in the way,” summed up South Pasadena resident Ron Rosen, ready to tackle part of the route on bike.