180,000 Cyclists Take Over Los Angeles for CicLAvia

PHOTO: Camilo Ramirez says the Bogotá-inspired event brings the city together.PlayAlbert Sabaté/ABC/Univision
WATCH L.A.'s CicLAvia Began In Bogota

Los Angeles may be known for cars and congestion, but its residents came out en masse over the weekend for the city's sixth and largest CicLAvia, a cycling event inspired by a weekly ritual in Bogotá, Colombia.

Streets were closed to cars from downtown L.A. to famed Venice Beach, allowing families and friends to cycle and skate along the 15-mile stretch in the city where nobody walks.

"The sheer turnout was incredible," said CicLAvia executive director Aaron Paley on a local NPR affiliate. "In our wildest dreams I don't think I ever would have thought that there would be a sea of people non-stop for 15 miles."

Organizers estimated that as many 180,000 participated – making it the most popular public event in the city and the largest car-free open-air event in the country.

The Los Angeles event began 2009 and is modeled after Ciclovía, a weekly street shutdown in Bogotá.

Bogotá began shutting down a network of streets and boulevards about 30 years ago in response to growing pollution and congestion on city streets. Its popularity grew into a weekly phenomenon -- drawing nearly 2 million people each week -- and has spread to dozens of cities across Latin America.

The event came to Los Angeles through the work of bicycle and enviromental activists, who visited Bogotá to see the weekly shut down. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a long-time advocate and cyclist himself, led the partnership with activists and city authorities to make it a reality.

Camilo Ramirez, 31, grew up with Ciclovía in his native Bogotá.

"It was like the morning thing to do on a Sunday -- rather than going to church," he told ABC/Univision from his bike at CicLAvia.

"It's something that really brings the city together – for everybody to have healthier lives. It's funny to say but here in L.A. we kind of need that, too."