CicLAvia draws thousands down six-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard

Eric Dietrich has finished the Boston Marathon and rowed the Charles River.

But the Echo Park resident's favorite event is the popular CicLAvia festival. He's never missed one, pumping his wheelchair with arms through each route.

On Sunday, Dietrich joined thousands of Angelenos in participating in the ninth edition of the event, which promotes health and a clean environment by encouraging people to abandon their cars for the day in favor of bicycles and other modes of non-polluting transportation.

"I love this," said Dietrich, 54. "I never want to have a motorized chair, and this is one good way to make sure it doesn't happen."

Each time Dietrich has participated in CicLAvia has given him a new appreciation for the city.

"I meet so many interesting people out here," he said. "There aren't that many things that attract a real cross section of the city like this."

The event Sunday spanned a 6-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, from downtown to the Miracle Mile areas. It drew cyclists as well as people on roller blades, unicycles, scooters and a moped, along with walkers and joggers who took advantage of the car-free street. One man rolled down the route, a leash in each hand, with two poodle mixes trailing behind.

Others decked out themselves and their bicycles in elaborate costumes. Justin Gunn, 39, peddled a tricycle, made to resemble a rocket, with two heat exchangers hugging a passenger seat in the back. He and a friend built the contraption, dubbed the Rock-It, with actual recycled rocket parts from a junkyard in the San Fernando Valley. Gunn was trailed by three other tricycles. One resembled a carriage and another looked like a picnic on wheels, complete with a picnic basket and umbrella.

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

The tradition came to Los Angeles in 2010 and has become a thrice-yearly ritual. Organizers are hoping to expand the number of car-free days, with a goal of holding monthly open-street events by 2017.

CicLAvia spokesman Robert Gard said Sunday's event went smoothly, with no serious crashes or public safety issues. He did not yet have an estimate of how many people took part.

"It wasn't too crowded, but was significantly well-used both by pedestrians and cyclists," he said.

Cyclists complained of major congestion on parts of the route during the ride last June that went from downtown L.A. to Venice. After that ride, organizers added an extra hour to the beginning and end of the ride, which Gard said helped to spread out the riders and alleviate backups. He also said Sunday's route, a straight shot down Wilshire, allowed the bike traffic to flow more freely than the last ride, in October, which included streets throughout downtown Los Angeles in a spoke-like pattern.

The next CicLAvia, in October, will follow a route linking downtown to surrounding neighborhoods, followed by a ride through South Los Angeles in December.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Times staff writers Robert Faturechi and Abby Sewell contributed to this report.