Bicycles and skates take over 7.5 mile swath of L.A. streets for CicLAvia

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Eric Zassenhaus/ KPCC

Cyclists, skateboarders, roller-skaters and more took to L.A.'s streets for the inaugural CicLAvia event Sunday.

Imagine a car-free Los Angeles. Thousands of people lived that fantasy on Sunday - at least for a few hours - as the city hosted its first "CicLAvia."

Officials shut off streets and allowed people to bike, jog, stroll and skateboard... with no traffic to worry about.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa insisted the idea for CicLAvia did not come from that nasty fall off his bicycle a few months ago.

"It really started as a visit to Copenhagen and Mexico City," said Villaraigosa. "And it doesn't take much to do it. I mean this'll end up costing a quarter of a million but 35,000 people will have participated."

Even before Villaraigosa hopped a bike and rode part of the route at Sunday's CicLAvia, he had already worked up a sweat shaking hands and thanking dozens of organizers.

Gold glitter on her face and a spiky red wig on her head, avid bicyclist J.J. Hoffman attracted attention as she watched the mayor bike along Fourth Street, headed toward City Hall.

"I feel sorry for people in cars because it's a great city and they'd like it more I think if they got out of their car and onto their bikes," Hoffman said.

The route began at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights and snaked through Downtown, MacArthur Park, Koreatown and East Hollywood.

Husband and wife Jose and Herly Torres - originally from Mexico - may have been in the minority. Instead of biking it, they took a leisurely 7 1/2 mile stroll, hand-in-hand, in the middle of Spring Street.

"Of course... it's very good... it's perfect... healthy... It's good," Herly Torres said with a smile.

About a mile down Spring, near 5th street, some bicyclists took a break to hear entertainer Nelson Martini - part comedian, part cheerleader.

"Hey show me some love come on now!" he yelled to the crowd watching. "It's a beautiful event for the bicyclists and we're just happy to have everyone out."

And while some businesses remained closed along the route, Phillip Castro was happy to open Bolt Barbers. He watched as dozens of bicyclists whizzed past his downtown shop, some giving him a thumbs up.

"Support for them. Support for us. Just being there for everybody. But normally we are shut on Sundays 'cause we sleep," Castro said with a laugh.

The first CicLAvia happened in Bogota, Colmbia 30 years ago. This was LA's first - but organizers say they plan to hold several more next year.

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