Editor’s Note: This article was first published in our 2022 May Print edition.
Five miles of streets were filled with thousands of people on foot, bike, skate, and all manner of wheeled devices in the cities of San Gabriel, Alhambra, and South Pasadena on Sunday, May 1st when 626 Golden Streets returned to town after a three year hiatus.
By Wesley Reutimann
The event kicked-off in downtown Alhambra with local dignitaries, including the one and only Gabe the Sasquatch, Mayor of the San Gabriel Mountains, who was framed by an even larger inflatable version of himself. The larger-than-life local elected official didn’t have much to say when asked for comment by Master of Ceremonies Andy Au, but he was nonetheless presented with personal certificates of recognition from Rep. Judy Chu and CA State Senator Anthony Portantino, who recognized the hirsute fellow for his years of work championing safer streets in the San Gabriel Valley.
Shortly after 9:00 am the streets began filling with families and people of all ages who came out to enjoy the unique opportunity to experience downtown San Gabriel, Alhambra, and South Pasadena devoid of cars. Attendees bumped into neighbors, classmates, and friends along the route, a novelty after years without similar large community events in the region.
The regional event also drew in visitors from further afield. For self-described “Open Streets fanatic” Joni Yung of Santa Monica the appeal was self-evident. “Who wants to spend a day eating, shopping, and playing on car-free streets with friends old and new? I know I do!”
Along the route live musical performances provided an eclectic, acoustic backdrop to the quiet streets. These included the San Gabriel High School marching band in the San Gabriel Mission District, a solar-powered DJ at Alhambra Park, and even a rolling cumbia act pulled by a tandem bike, among a dozen plus local artists.
Carnival games, inflatable slides and obstacle courses, climbing walls, giant badminton and chess added to the fun with kids of all ages challenging themselves to feats of strength and agility.
Several new businesses on Main Street in Alhambra coordinated their official grand opening celebrations to coincide with the open streets event.
Attendees were also able to garner a sneak peak of the San Gabriel Valley’s soon-to-launch electric bike share program, GoSGV. Made possible by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, the program will offer monthly subscriptions for electric-assist cargo and commuter style bicycles to San Gabriel Valley residents. Event attendees were able to test ride the program’s bikes in each downtown district and take a survey to pre-register for the program. According to event staff facilitating the test-ride zones, roughly half of those who tried one out had never been on an e-bike before.
For Pasadena resident Jessica Bowles-Martinez the event was a hit with her school-aged children. “My kids enjoyed talking to the different booths and learning about the various non-profits and putting stickers on transportation projects in Alhambra they thought were the coolest.” She also noted that another highlight was the double decker electric bus displayed by Foothill Transit. “They loved the view from the second story looking out on the street and were curious to know more about the accessibility features.”
The next 626 Golden Streets – a makeup of “Heart of the Foothills” originally planned for April 2020 – is tentatively scheduled for April 23, 2023 and will connect the cities of San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, and Claremont. More information about upcoming 626 Golden Streets events can be found at: 626goldenstreets.com.
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