Bringing Sustainable Happiness to Life
By Catherine O'Brien • March 8, 2013
The heat of the day was gathering momentum – the cool morning air was being outmuscled by the rising heat of the sun. The broad avenue stretching out before me is normally overwhelmed in a rush of traffic but today the road was vibrating from a different energy. It was awash in movement and colour, a mass of humanity coming together for this weekly event.
The street was alive. It was vibrant. It was sustainable happiness on the largest scale I’d ever seen. This is Guadalajara’s Via RecreActiva. Every Sunday, the streets are closed to traffic and the public space is returned to the entire city to play. Hundreds of thousands of people converge to cycle, run, walk, in-line skate, wheel in a wheelchair and skateboard to their heart’s delight.
As I set out on my borrowed bicycle, I saw three youth darting in and out of the human sea of activity. These three amigos were outfitted in black T-shirts and jeans and they were clearly enjoying the freedom of the open streets. Clarence Eckerson, from Streetfilms, waived the youth over to give an interview. We asked them what they would be doing if they weren’t at the Via RecreActiva. “Probably nothing,” one said. “Sitting at home,” said another.
“How does it feel to be here?” we asked.
“It feels great!” And then they zipped off on their skateboards, quickly swallowed up by hundreds of others rolling, walking, riding and dancing in the street.
Ciclovia’s such as this are emerging all over the world. Opening streets to people uses the existing infrastructure. It builds community. It’s a superb way for municipalities to foster sustainable happiness.