Last Sunday, tens of thousands of Angelenos did the unthinkable: enjoyed spending time on a freeway. Arroyo Fest 2023 removed cars from about seven miles of the 110 Freeway, known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Instead, the freeway was filled with people on foot, on bike, on skates, on scooters.
The event was produced by the nonprofit ActiveSGV (if you enjoyed it, support them) which hosts the popular 626 Golden Streets series. ActiveSGV partnered with Metro, Caltrans, the cities of L.A. and South Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.
This year’s Arroyo Fest commemorated the 2003 Arroyo Fest, generally seen as the region’s first open streets event, and a precursor to today’s wildly popular Golden Streets, CicLAvia, and other event series.
Yesterday’s Arroyo Fest took place earlier than most Southern California open streets events. The 110 Freeway was open from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. (contrast that to many open streets events spanning from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). About 4,000 Run the 110 10K event participants made their way down the freeway starting right at 7 a.m. Other early birds showed up on foot and on bike, but attendance was a bit sparse during the first chilly hour of the event.
As the sun came up, by around 8:30 a.m. the Arroyo Seco Parkway became downright crowded with people on bike and foot.
The crowds felt as big as or bigger than central L.A. open streets events. By 10 a.m., bicyclists were having to proceed a bit slowly to negotiate space.
The event was planned around connections to the Metro A Line (formerly the Gold Line), which saw crowding – a good problem to have. Thousands of runners boarded light rail to return to the start. All day, cyclists piled into rail cars to get to and from the event.
Overall, the event was perhaps most characterized by the pervasive quiet that descends on a freeway when cars are absent. There were the sounds of human conversations, occasional bike bells, small sound systems, and even a piano – but peace and quiet reigned.
Mark your calendar: the last open streets event of the year will be CicLAvia – South L.A. taking place on Sunday December 3, mostly on Martin Luther King Boulevard.