Thousands turn out for fifth anniversary celebration of CicLAvia

Thousands of cyclists, skaters and pedestrians turned out Sunday to take part in the fifth anniversary celebration of CicLAvia called the Heart of L.A.

The popular bike festival, which is held in different locations throughout the year, encourages Angelenos to abandon their cars for the day and rediscover their city in other ways. The idea is to promote a clean environment and good health.


Sunday’s course is centered downtown and runs through the Civic Center, the Arts District, Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, Chinatown and as far west as MacArthur Park. The day started with a kickoff ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in front of Los Angeles City Hall with opening remarks by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti told the crowd how much the city had changed since the first CicLAvia was held in October 2010.

The car-free event was "something that started as a brave experiment, in a city that used to be so good at saying no, just said yes, once," he said.

The mayor made light of early morning gray skies and drizzle.

"Ain't no rain gonna keep us away today, right?" he said.

Light showers were expected throughout the morning in the Los Angeles Basin with temperatures ranging from the high 60s to the low 70s, said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. There will be lingering showers and thunderstorms in the mountain areas.

But participants were undeterred by the possibility of rain and by 10:30 a.m. the skies over Los Angeles began to clear up.

At the western terminus of the CicLAvia route, dozens of people ordered cold-pressed juice and garlic fries from food trucks parked along 7th Street, just south of MacArthur Park.

Some cyclists wore tutus or CicLAvia T-shirts; others, competitive racing kits and unicorn horn headbands. Small trailers attached to bikes carried children, dogs or portable speakers blaring Kanye West and mariachi music.

A traffic safety nonprofit set up a child-sized obstacle course on 7th Street, complete with cardboard storefronts, a mock intersection and two drivers, one distracted.

"What color are her eyes?" said safety instructor Bill Howard, pointing at a yellow cardboard car with a woman inside. Getting the color correct (blue) didn't matter so much, Howard said, but the person needs to know if the driver is looking at his phone, "or looking at you."

His pupil nodded and readjusted his helmet, then biked through the intersection, shakily steering into the bike lane marked in chalk.

"When they're this young, it's about getting the basics down," Howard said later. "Then, when they start riding more, especially in a big city like Los Angeles, the rules of the road are familiar."

Families rested and posed for photos near the lake in MacArthur Park, where the surface of the water was covered with hundreds of brightly painted spheres a little larger than beach balls.

"Say, 'CicLAvia!'" said John Cook, 52 of Ventura, as he held his phone out for a selfie. His wife, daughter and a family friend grinned and posed. Cook and his wife rode the route on a bright yellow tandem bike, which they also rode from their wedding in Pasadena nearly 20 years ago.

Making the trek from Ventura for their fourth CicLAvia was worth it, said his wife, Beth Cook, because it gives the family a chance to explore Los Angeles in a different way.

"It slows down the whole L.A. experience," said Cook, 53. "You get a chance to look at the architecture of the buildings and appreciate your surroundings."

Rain and gray skies may have kept people away earlier, but about 60,000 people were expected to attend Sunday's CicLAvia, according to spokesman Rob Gard. That figure is on par with other downtown CicLAvia events, he said.

Metrolink train cars with space for bikes were full Sunday morning on routes from Orange County and the Antelope Valley, according to the transportation agency.

Trains traveling from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles were suspended for an hour after a southbound Gold Line train hit a sedan about 11:30 a.m. near the Fillmore Station, officials said. The two people in the sedan were transported to a local hospital in serious condition. The 24 passengers on the train were unhurt.

The Metropolitan Transportation Agency has begun running trains in both directions on what are typically the northbound tracks, said Kim Upton, a spokeswoman for the MTA.

Sunday's CicLAvia event marks the 15th edition of the bike festival and will run until 4 p.m. It's free to the public.

Ciclovias, as they are known in Spanish, started in Bogota, Colombia, more than 30 years ago as a response to increasing automobile congestion and pollution. They have spread through Latin America and the United States. The tradition came to Los Angeles in 2010.