In 2008, Carlos Morales, an El Sereno, Calif., resident, weighed 400 pounds. Today, he weighs 200 pounds and is not only a CicLAvia participant but an enthusiastic cyclist who rides his bike 1,000 miles a month.
“Cycling is my passion, it saved my life,” said the 53-year-old Morales, who was among thousands who participated in Sunday’s bike festival centered in downtown Los Angeles.
Joined by fellow members of the East Side Bike Club, founded in June 2008, Morales cycled on what he nicknamed the “10-footer” bike because five people pedal it at once.
“There are only six in the world,” he said. “It was made in Holland and this is the only one in the U.S. It’s great — five people on the bike, rolling, having great conversation, party on wheels.”
This is the fourth time the club has taken the bike out, he said.
“CicLAvia is great — it brings community together, all ages, all ethnic groups, all different parts of the state,” he said. “It’s healthy, it’s fun and economical.
Irene Pena, 52 of Echo Park resident, and Judy Harper, 52, of Echo Park, bid and won two seats on Morales’ bike at a silent auction.
Harper, who sported turquoise wings, called herself the crew’s bike fairy.
“It helps us to go, gives us a little bit of power,” she said, waving her wand in a circle. “[For going] up the hill.”
Organizers said more than 100,000 people were expected to participate in the eighth edition of CicLAvia, which is intended to get Angelenos to abandon their cars and rediscover their city on bicycles, skateboards, inline skates or on foot.
The event runs until 4 p.m. and covers roughly 7.5 miles of city streets in and around downtown, including portions of Spring Street, Broadway, 1st, 4th, 7th and 9th streets.
The closed roadways reach west to MacArthur Park, east to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights and north to Chinatown. Grand Park downtown serves as a main hub, and Spring Street — from 9th Street to West 1st Street — connect the two main parts of the event.
Los Angeles held its first CicLAvia in October 2010. The festival was an immediate hit with Angelenos who enjoyed the opportunity to travel urban roads without worrying about cars.
The idea of booting cars off the roads for pedestrians and cyclists was borrowed from Colombia, which began its weekly Ciclovía more than 30 years ago. The event is intended to promote health and community, while raising awareness about pollution and alternate modes of transportation.