by Juliet Oh
As many of you may know, the much anticipated CicLAvia – Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, is just around the corner. This time around, Angelenos will be able to experience one of Los Angeles’ most recognizable and historic roadways up close and at a leisurely pace.
A brief history primer…
During the early years of the City’s growth (1880s to 1900s), Wilshire Blvd was a model for innovation and progress. The early City founders equipped Wilshire with the City’s first automated traffic signals, painted traffic lanes, and dedicated left turn lanes; the Boulevard became a blueprint for a new type of “linear downtown” centered on the automobile. Elaborate billboard advertisements and neon lights popped up along Wilshire to catch the eyes of motorists zipping through the City. Developers envisioned Wilshire Blvd as the new commercial corridor outside of Downtown Los Angeles.
Wilshire Blvd is still one of the most talked about streets in Los Angeles. Known for its wide range of architectural styles and iconic buildings, this street appeals to architecture buffs and preservationists alike. The Los Angeles Times chronicles the evolution of architecture along Wilshire here. As office buildings, commercial uses, and high density residential structures replaced single-family homes, the street and roadway were widened to accommodate more users and traffic.
A boulevard in transition…
Today, Wilshire Blvd continues to be a model for innovation and progress. A street originally designed for the savvy urban motorist has undergone a number of transportation makeovers, with many more on the way. Buses and the subway were introduced to the Boulevard, while June 2013 marked the opening of the first segment of the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with a dedicated lane during peak travel times (7-9am and 4-7pm Monday-Friday). Future projects such as the next segments of the BRT line (estimated completion November 2014) and the extension of the Purple Line (construction begins 2014) present new opportunities for Angelenos.
Wilshire Boulevard mirrors the challenge and opportunity for an enhanced network of multi modal streets throughout the City. As one of the most widely used east-west transportation corridors, it seems at times that many modes of travel may be vying for the same space. However, the upcoming CicLAvia along Wilshire Boulevard provides a great way for Angelenos to experience the street from an entirely different perspective. Because so much of the street has changed, new track has/will be laid, and so many enhancements have yet to be made, a diverse mix of transportation options are in Wilshire Blvd’s near future.
A walkable CicLAvia…
Compared to previous CicLAvia events, the Wilshire Blvd stretch is on the short end at only 6 miles, so organizers are calling it “the most walkable CicLAvia ever.” In addition, Angelenos can take advantage of the Purple and Red Lines that run the from Downtown to Western Ave; you can take your time along the route and explore the hodgepodge of neighborhoods that call Wilshire home: Downtown, Westlake/MacArthur Park, Koreatown/Wilshire Center, Hancock Park, and Miracle Mile. The Los Angeles Conservancy provides an interactive guide of the Boulevard’s districts and landmarks here.