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CicLAvia: The bike festival is a tradition for some

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As motorists crawled along the 110 Freeway below, members of several African American ski organizations gathered for a group photo on the Wilshire Boulevard overpass to celebrate their participation in the ninth CicLAvia festival.

“We’ve been doing this for four years. Never going to stop,” said Bryan Miles, 51, of Los Angeles.

The 6.3-mile CicLAvia ride is an off-season event for the 4 Seasons West Ski Club, Winter Fox Ski Assn. and the Snow Busters Ski Club — groups that organize sports outings and raise money so that African American youth can learn to ski.

“Oh, this ride is so much fun,” said Robin Shaw, 49, of Rancho Cucamonga. "It’s great to see everything that comes out for this — the weird bikes, some with tiny wheels, others with huge wheels.”

"The people in tutus are cool too,” said Lex Sales, 49, of Memphis, Tenn.

Meanwhile, Nancy and Gerald Torres — self-described bike fanatics — pedaled through MacArthur Park with their dog Kona wearing red sunglasses in a small trailer behind them.

“I’ve never seen this part of the city this way,” Nancy marveled.

CicLAvia organizers distributed a podcast for cyclists hoping that they might see and experience Wilshire differently. Edward Lifson, the architect and culture writer, narrates the boulevard’s origins more than a century ago to the present day, with excerpts from other Angelenos’ experiences on the thoroughfare.

“I just love the change to see the city this way,” Gerald said. “I was on a 55-mile ride yesterday but didn’t want to miss this.”

“We’ll definitely be back,” Nancy said.

Cynthia Espana enjoyed dressing up for her third CicLAvia.

The 29-year-old FedEx driver put bows on her feet, Hello Kitty tights on her legs, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bag on her shoulder and a red tutu on her waist.

“It just feels so good not to be behind the wheel,” she said, pedaling her pink bike down Wilshire Boulevard. “There’s an immediacy you can’t get when you’re driving,” she said. “I get to see my city with a new perspective.”

She was meeting friends dressed in less eye-catching clothing.

“I light them up!” she said.

The Portillo brothers have grown up with CicLAvia. Daniel, 6, and Maxwell, 4, came to their first ride in a stroller. But Daniel is on training wheels now and both brothers clambered up a 24-foot climbing wall erected on Wilshire Boulevard next to a downtown skyscraper.

“I wasn’t scared,” Daniel said shortly after ringing the bell at the wall’s peak. “It’s so high.”

Their mother, Ruby, said she hoped that CicLAvia would continue to grow to the point that some streets are permanently closed to motorists. “Maybe in 20 years we can get there,” she said “Experiencing the city in this way brings us closer to parts that had been forgotten,” she said.

The CicLAvia route from One Wilshire in downtown Los Angeles to the Miracle Mile-area west of Hauser Boulevard is closed to motorists until 4 p.m.

Ciclovias, as they are known in Spanish, started in Bogota, Colombia, more than 30 years ago as a response to increasing congestion and pollution. The festivals, which have spread throughout the United States and Latin America, are intended to promote health, community interaction and a clean environment.

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garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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