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Thousands get out of the car and onto their bikes at CicLAvia

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Scott Desposato was 22 when he and a group of friends biked across the country. They started in San Diego and finished in Washington.

The cross-country trek not only benefited a fundraiser but also had a lifelong effect on Desposato. The 46-year-old commutes to and from work every day.

"There's an incredible sense of freedom when you're on a bike and not in a car," he said. "One day, I saw a whale off the coast in San Diego. You don't get to see that in your car."

Desposato is now passing on his love for biking to his children.

The UC San Diego political science professor on Sunday ventured to CicLAvia in downtown Los Angeles with his 6-year-old daughter, Gabriela, and 5-year-old twins, Luke and Sebastian. They were among tens of thousands who participated in the event, which is aimed at getting people to abandon their cars for the day to promote health and the environment.

The bike festival started at 9 a.m. and by 2 p.m., Desposato and his family had covered about seven miles, stopping to enjoy a mariachi performance at one location and grabbing a lunch of tacos and gelato at a food truck parked at another spot.

"It's a great way for them to experience the world," he said of his children. "It's always something special when you ride."

From triathlons to trails, Lee Hinton, 55, has spent more than 20 years biking around Los Angeles.

Hinton, a Chicago native, sees CicLAvia as an opportunity to promote bike safety and good health, which he said are very important to him.

As a downtown resident, Hinton has seen much change in the biking culture of L.A. Now, there are designated bike lanes on city streets. "I think we are doing OK compared to some other cities," he said. "I'm happy with the progress I see."

Organizers estimated more than 100,000 people turned out to bike, walk, run and roller-skate along the 7 ½ miles of downtown streets that were closed to cars Sunday for CicLAvia.

Sunday's event, dubbed Heart of L.A., was the third this year and the eighth since CicLAvia began in 2010 in downtown Los Angeles.

"We came back to where we started it all," said Robert Gard, a CicLAvia spokesman. "People seemed to really like coming back to these streets downtown that they now know and love."

Organizers are still finalizing plans for 2014, but Gard said they hoped to put on four throughout the year, with the first in April along Wilshire Boulevard.

Although CicLAvia is best known as an attraction for cyclists, Gard said it has become increasingly popular for those on foot.

"More and more people are seeing it as a pedestrian event and taking advantage of that," he said. "We still had tens of thousands of bicycles out there, but we saw people embracing it as both a pedestrian and a cycling event."

alicia.banks@latimes.com

saba.hamedy@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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