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MAP: CicLAvia — Ride with an Olympic medalist, plus more helpful tips

Nelson Vails grew up in Harlem, New York and worked as a bicycle messenger.
Getty Images/Getty Images
Nelson Vails grew up in Harlem, New York and worked as a bicycle messenger.

Map: Follow the route in blue. Venice Boulevard will be open eastbound from the beach to Crenshaw. Find places to eat, snack and visit by clicking the icons.

The first CicLAvia of 2013 will offer new scenery and six more miles of the road-closing block party. For participants thinking of going out and back on the whole route, that's another 12 miles. Plus, there are many more feeder rides for the first of this year’s tri-annual event, some from as far away as Pasadena and Watts.

One feeder ride will be led by Olympic cycling medalist Nelson Vails, originally from Harlem and now based in San Diego. A New York City bicycle messenger turned international racer, Vails will be riding with Stan's Bike Shopand the Eastside Bike Club from El Sereno to the end of the CicLAvia route in Venice.

Vails grew up in public housing five blocks from Central Park. When he learned to ride off the sidewalk and onto the street at age 6, he'd ride the park loop every day with his friends.

RELATED: CicLAvia guide: How to rent a bike, fix a flat, join a feeder ride and more tips (Photos)

"The freedom was overwhelming," he said. "We rode so much our parents would call us in just to eat. Otherwise, we'd go out all day.”

His racing career took off when he won a silver medal in the 1,000-meter sprints at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Returning to L.A. to ride in his first CicLAvia, Vails wants to encourage children and families to keep bicycling to stay fit and out of trouble.

"I would bet money that there is a couple of Olympians in there of the kids that are gonna participate,” he said. “Or they'll make a better way in life whether it's academics or sports."

Thinking of joining a feeder ride? Check out our list here.

If you just can't make it to the ride this weekend, don't fret. There are two more rides on deck for this year: June 23 down Wilshire Boulevard and Oct. 6, in downtown Los Angeles.

Tips for Metrolink riders:

For those pedaling on Sunday, here are our best tips to enjoy CicLAvia:

1) Plan your trip there and back: For those taking public transit for the first time, it is a good idea to have a backup plan in case you miss your first train or bus home. For example, know the last train departure time. If you're riding with a feeder group, ask if there will be a ride back as well. If you're driving, check out all your parking options and don't be afraid to park several blocks away from the route and ride in.

Helpful links: Metrolink bike car trains, Metro bus advisories, ParkMe parking structures and street map for Downtown and Santa Monica, Metro and city of Los Angeles and westside bike lane maps and road closures map.

2) Take advantage of the Hubs along the way: See them all here. Give your bike a quick tune-up at the bike mechanic stands before you start off. Refill your water bottle. Use it as a meeting place with your friends. There will even be a farmers' market hub in Mar Vista — squeeze in some grocery shopping along the way.

3) Watch the clock: Leave plenty of time to see the sites and don't forget to check your watch to give you enough time to make it back to your bus stop, train station or car. Maybe even set a cell phone alarm. CicLAvia has a detailed trip planner for walkers and bikers.

4) Don't forget to eat and keep hydrated: Check out our map of recommended eateries.

5) And lastly, be nice. CicLAvia is not just for bikes – make room for families with dogs and strollers, and the youngest tricyclists. Also, ride in the direction of traffic. Use your arm signals and give a calm, "on your left" when passing on the left. If you're going to stop abruptly, say "stopping" and use the hand signal.

Parking maps: Find an open lot and browse parking prices in downtown and Santa Monica.

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Los Angeles Parking Powered by ParkMe