International ‘Cyclovia’ event discussed

Special to the PRESS

February 5, 2015

Cyclovia is a worldwide, open streets event which creates a car-free environment for cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians to encourage active forms of transportation and overall public health. In 2012, Brownsville started their own version of the event, named CycloBia, and has held eight in all, with turnout ranging from 4,000 to over 13,000 people. At the City Council meeting Wednesday evening, the Council discussed the opportunity to host a Cyclovia event at South Padre Island.

The event originated in 1976 in Bogotá, Colombia as an inexpensive way to encourage activity and provide park space in the city. To this day, 75 miles of streets in Colombia are closed each Sunday, and over 1 million people take to the streets to participate.

Brownsville City Commissioner Dr. Rose Zavaletta Gowen attended Wednesday’s meeting to promote the event and to encourage the Island to hold one of its own.

Zavaletta Gowen shared some staggering statistics saying that in the Rio Grande Valley, one out of three people are diabetic — 50 percent of whom do not yet know of their condition — as well as the concern that 80 percent of Valley residents are either overweight or obese. She applauded the success of the SPI farmers’ market and shared that this event could be a way of promoting healthy eating and activity as well as supporting the idea of the Island becoming a walkable community with a family friendly environment.

Brownsville’s first CycloBia was held in the fall of 2013 and had 4,000 participants. The second, third and fourth events were held in 2013, and four more events occurred in 2014. Brownsville has held more Cylovias than anywhere else in Texas, and with the event’s name recognition, Brownsville’s CycloBia has proven to have huge tourism potential with visitors coming from all over the state. The City even hosted its first CycloBia Nights with Yoga stations, musicians, and businesses set up on the streets along with free bike rentals to ensure access for low-income individuals. These events have pumped money into the economy with the owner of the Half Moon Saloon, a night club in Downtown Brownsville that features live Jazz and Blues, sharing that he made enough money participating in one CylcoBia night to pay his taxes for the month.

According to Gowen, one CycloBia event costs approximately $10,000, but many cities have enjoyed job support and significant financial returns to the local economy. Even more importantly, the event serves to educate the public about an active lifestyle and provide a sense of community to encourage it. Approximately 78 percent of Brownsville’s participants surveyed said they would rank the program a five out of five.

South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel was in support of the program and pointed out that Dr. Zavaletta  Gowen’s statistics were eye-openers. The mayor motioned that the City proceed to produce the first Cyclovia event on the Island, and the Council approved.

Dr. Zavaletta Gowen invited the City to send a participant to the event advisory board meeting next Monday in Harlingen. She even said that in talking with planning partners, although it would require approval, Brownsville would be happy to loan bikes to the city for its first event. The next Brownville CycloBia is scheduled for March 15 and is a free event that is open to the public.

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