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Non-drivers hog the road at 6th and biggest CicLAvia

The 15-mile route from downtown to the beach welcomed any form of non-motorized transportation. Organizers say as many as 150,000 people participated.

April 22, 2013|By Michael Finnegan, Samantha Schaefer and Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • CicLAvia participants arrive in Venice Beach. The route was 15 miles, from downtown L.A.
CicLAvia participants arrive in Venice Beach. The route was 15 miles, from… (Christina House, For the…)

Some brought children. Some brought friends. Alden Delos Santos brought Chihuahuas.

Delos Santos, 41, carried his puppies Bianco and Sriracha in a front pack as he joined as many as 150,000 other bicycle riders Sunday along a downtown-to-the-ocean path of streets that were closed to car traffic for the occasion.

It was the sixth and biggest CicLAvia, a celebration of cycling, walking, in-line skating, skateboarding, scootering and any other form of transportation that requires no motor.

"You can see the city in a different way," Delos Santos said as he set off from City Hall with his miniature white rescue dogs.

The main thoroughfare was Venice Boulevard, a streetcar route in the bygone era of Los Angeles' Red Cars.

With an eye on his legacy in the waning days of his eight years in office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described the event as emblematic of a city reducing its reliance on the automobile, with 148 miles of new bike lanes and a rapidly expanding network of rail lines.

"It's not a walkable city yet, but it's becoming a walkable city," he said.

Surrounded by cyclists outside El Pueblo de Los Angeles in downtown before he mounted his bike for the 15-mile ride to Venice beach, Villaraigosa called for a law requiring motorists to leave a three-foot buffer between their vehicles and bicyclists.

"We've got to start sharing the road, particularly in this city that's so addicted to the single-passenger automobile," Villaraigosa said.

A while later, Villaraigosa stopped to tweet a photo. "I broke my elbow here on Venice blvd yrs ago after an accident w a taxi," he wrote. "Now I'm back w no taxis in sight!"

In a city where harried drivers outnumber cyclists, bike riders were pleased to get a one-day break from competing with cars and trucks for road space.

"There's a lot of close misses — getting yelled at," said Chris Manacop, 30, a nurse from Chino who drove to downtown L.A. to ride in the event with a friend from Pomona, Joe Galang, 32.

CicLAvia was inspired by Ciclovia, which has been staged for more than 30 years in traffic-choked Bogota, Colombia.

In Los Angeles, the five previous cycling days drew as many as 100,000 riders and pedestrians. But Sunday's was the first with a 15-mile route that cleared streets from downtown all the way to the beach. Organizers estimated that the crowd swelled to 150,000 this time, although no one counted those coming and going.

The $350,000 cost to stage each event is picked up by a nonprofit, CicLAvia, and the city, which uses state and federal money for the event. The goal of the nonprofit is to encourage public health, mass transit and vibrant public space through car-free street events.

The next CicLAvia is scheduled for June 23 on Wilshire Boulevard, from downtown to Fairfax Avenue.

Police took extra precautions during the five-hour event Sunday, but the atmosphere was festive. Along the way were food trucks, DJs, a rock-climbing wall, a marching band and arts-and-crafts booths.

Jim Nissen, 43, put on a red cape that billowed in the wind as he rode in a Nacho Libre costume based on Jack Black's character in the wrestling comedy "Nacho Libre."

"Cars have a great place in our culture," he said on his trek down Venice Boulevard. "They just don't have a great place in our city."

"Look! Nacho!" an onlooker shouted.

One of the most eye-catching attractions was Dan Busby's eight-person bicycle with revelers in formal dinner wear pedaling from their seats around a banquet table set with fruit and pastries, a chandelier dangling overhead.

"We're trying to make it all the way to Venice," Busby said as they made their way down Main Street downtown. "I think we can do it, don't you, guys?"

As bananas and clementines jiggled on the tablecloth, the rest of the group responded collectively as they pedaled: "Yeah!"

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

abigail.sewell@latimes.com

Times staff writers Dalina Castellanos, Stacey Leasca and Matthew Fleischer contributed to this report.

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