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Thousands of cyclists enjoy CicLAvia in its Valley debut

Under a cloudy March sky, thousands of bicyclists roll down Lankershim Boulevard

Under a cloudy March sky, thousands of bicyclists rolled down Lankershim Boulevard early Sunday in the first CicLAvia car-free event to be held in the San Fernando Valley.

The increasingly popular open-street festival got started about 9 a.m. at the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station, with riders streaming down the 5.5-mile route along Lankershim and Ventura boulevards in Studio City. The event runs until 4 p.m.

It was the 12th CicLAvia event in Los Angeles since 2010. The festivals are modeled after the Ciclovia custom in Colombia, where some streets are closed to cars every Sunday.

On a side street near Lankershim, Duane LaDage unloaded his family’s bikes from his truck while his 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, waited patiently on her “purple flower power” beach cruiser. The family lives in Hollywood and doesn't get to ride their bikes as often as they’d like, so they were excited for the opportunity to ride safely.

“We get to take the streets back,” LaDage said. “It’s our chance to ride on the streets without being run down by a car.”

Caroline watched from the sidewalk as her family rode in a previous CivLAvia down Wilshire Boulevard and was thrilled that she would finally get to ride for the first time.  “It feels cool that I get to be a part of it,” she said.

Down the block, Herman Lopez explained to a nun at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church that he was missing his normal morning services for the ride but assured her that he’d be back in the afternoon.

Lopez, who lives nearby in North Hollywood, said his schedule always got in the way of participating in previous events. He’d like to start getting back into shape and so he did an hourlong ride before the event began.

“I’ve always wanted to do one and this is just around the corner from my house,” he said.

Talia Rubino, 32, of Valley Village and Katie Mongan, 26, of Sherman Oaks walked briskly down the ride route, outpacing even some of the bike riders. They often go for hikes to stay active on the weekends, but instead decided to walk alongside the bikers.

“This is a nice alternative – it’s kind of like an urban hike,” Mongan said.

The lifelong Valley residents were excited to see a big event come out to what is often an afterthought when people think of Los Angeles.

“It makes us feel like we’re included in L.A.,” Mongan said. “I think the Valley is pretty cool.”

Peter Richter rode his mountain unicycle along the route, while his young daughter kept pace and wife Lena Richter ran alongside him -- often speeding past her one-wheeled husband.

The family from Altadena had heard of the CicLAvia events but never rode in one before. They were hooked, they said.

“It’s a great way to see L.A.,” Paul said.

The free flowing ride was just the right speed for Isabella Lores, 25, who grew up in Los Angeles but lives in New York City. When she was 18, she took a bad spill on a beach cruiser and was knocked unconscious and was diagnosed with a concussion.

Lores had been on a bike only once since the accident and appreciated the slow pace.

“It’s so chill and easy,” she said.

At a rest area near the Universal/Studio City Red Line station, the East Los Angeles bicycle group Broken Spokes took a quick break. The group started out as a few family members going on rides in the neighborhood, but now includes about 20 riders of varying skill, said Carlos Hernandez, the club’s president.

“As long as you know how to ride you can join us,” he said.

Because of the various skill levels and ages of group members, Hernandez said they typically keep weekend rides short to make sure everyone is safe. They attend every CicLAvia they can to take advantage of the open streets.

“It’s controlled so you don’t have to worry about cars,” he said.

His wife, Sandra, agreed: “The kids get to have fun without worrying about getting hit.”



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