CicLAvia kicks off for first time in South L.A.

It's the 11th time L.A. has closed streets to motorist to make way for bikes and pedestrians.

The 11th CicLAvia bike festival officially kicked off Sunday morning, marking the first time that the car-free route will wind through South Los Angeles.

Thousands of bicyclists, skateboarders, roller skaters and pedestrians are expected to ride or walk the six-mile route along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, extending from Leimert Park to Central Avenue, south of downtown. Streets along the route will be closed to traffic.

Sunday's route will be closed to cars between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and will feature activities at “hubs” along the way, including Leimert Park, Exposition Park, Jazz Park and Central Avenue, near Washington Boulevard. At these assembling places, there will be food trucks, live music and farmers markets.

Landmarks along the route include the former Dunbar Hotel, where the first national NAACP convention was held, and where greats Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald performed. It has been converted to senior housing.

The cooler weather predicted for Sunday may encourage more people to participate, compared to the hot October day when the rolling street party was last held, organizers said.

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 took part on that occasion.

The idea behind the festival is to promote public health and the environment by getting people out of their cars and rediscovering their city, organizers said.

Previous routes have gone through downtown, East Los Angeles, the Westside and along Wilshire Boulevard. The first CicLAvia was in 2010; the event is modeled after the "open streets" festival in Bogota, Colombia, which began nearly 40 years ago and uses mainly a fixed route.

Organizers of Sunday’s event are expected to make an announcement about future funding related to the festival.

Twitter: @howardblume

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