Here are some impressions from a participant in the DWP Light Festival walking nights, a pilot program that took place November 21st-25th in Griffith Park.
People really loved it. Our community hit the nail on the head in terms of the environment and traffic, but the obvious increase in family enjoyment and social interaction was a huge and unexpected dividend. Subtracting cars turned the Festival into a big, friendly public outdoor space where people could experience each other, take pictures of each other, and move at their own pace. Children were dance-walking to the more rhythmic holiday music being played, some people were even singing along to the classics.
On Friday evening around 5:30 parking in the Zoo lot was readily available. There was a great crowd…mostly families with children…a surprising number of multi-generational families, too. Knee-high kids and taller were walking…tiny tots were being propelled in every kind of stroller device or carried in papooses and baby backpacks. (I got the impression that parents were pleased at having an easy, flat place to use their equipment). There were also people in wheelchairs rolling along the asphalt surface. I talked to one wheelchair-user, a member of the Anthony Family, and he said he was having a great time. Although “forbidden,” cyclists who were unaware of the prohibition pedaled slowly through without inconveniencing anyone. Same with family dogs who came along for the fun. Although signing and directions at the Zoo lot on where to park and where to begin the walk were minimal, folks used common sense or memory or just followed their neighbors and arrived at the lights just fine. Parking in the merry-go-round lot and the bus that took them to the light tunnel proved to be as completely unnecessary as some had thought. Most people skipped the bus (and the wait) and walked down from the lot anyway.
On Sunday night again there was a big, happy crowd…the Zoo lot was still only about 30% full. That night there was a one-hour jam on Los Feliz from people turning into the park to go to the merry-go-round lot. It was sad that people’s time and fuel–not to mention the money to run the buses–were being wasted in an attempt to make the point that there was not enough capacity at the Zoo. The Zoo lot could have accommodated everyone and many more. On the way out we exited the 5 Freeway at Los Feliz and could see the bus stopping at the ponyride lot to pick up a couple of people who could have easily parked at the Zoo had they not been misdirected.
The walking only nights have to be deemed a great success. Next year that success can only grow when the word gets around more and with more forceful publicity. Let’s work towards turning the entire Festival into a pedestrian-friendly event that’s not only fun, but promotes healthy habits and diminishes L.A.’s contribution to Global Warming.
The Corona Family came well-prepared with extra layers and a stroller for baby. Because visitors could move at their own pace, the Festival could even be enjoyed on crutches.