SAN JOSE -- There wasn't a sports victory to celebrate or an astronaut homecoming or any other particularly earthshaking reason to close 6 miles of city streets on Sunday, but they did it anyway, and organizers hope they do it again, soon, and often.
It was the inaugural Viva CalleSJ Open Streetsevent, part of a global movement to get city residents outdoors for a walking, biking, roller-skating social expedition along major arteries that usually serve as car-cluttered conduits, passed through but not really noticed.
"The idea goes way back," said Gil Penalosa, who started a similar event decades ago when he served as a parks commissioner in Bogota, Colombia, that has since grown to a weekly 70-mile-long "Ciclovia" tour through numerous boroughs, drawing out more than a million residents.
Adam Ross, 3, pushes his scooter up Story Road past a lonely gas station in San Jose, Calif., as cyclists and pedestrians took over six miles of  streets
Adam Ross, 3, pushes his scooter up Story Road past a lonely gas station in San Jose, Calif., as cyclists and pedestrians took over six miles of streets for Viva CalleSJ Sunday morning, Oct. 11, 2015. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) ( Karl Mondon )
Penalosa now heads 880 Cities, a Toronto-based organization that aims to foster such programs in municipalities around the world. He said the goal of getting people of all walks together was an inspiration for Frederick Olmsted, the 19th century landscape architect responsible for many of the nation's famous parks.
The fact that the notion predates the automobile emphasizes what it's all about: Community interaction. Getting folks out there to mix and mingle and make new friends while enjoying healthy physical activities.
"They said that in New York City, everybody hates everybody," Penalosa said. "Rich and poor, white and black, nobody gets along. But you bring them all out on the streets and they're equal. Someone might have a $5,000 bike, you might have a $50 bike, but you're having the same good time."
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The path for Sunday's event stretched from Emma Prusch Farm Park in East San Jose, meandering along Story Road until turning on First Street to the main gathering destination at downtown's St. James Park. There, a couple hundred folks clustered to listen to jazz, show off custom cruiser bikes and check out a collection of Super Bowl trophies earned by the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers over the years.
"We chose the route because it goes through San Jose's most diverse neighborhoods," said organizer Carlos Velazquez of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. "Story and King is the commercial heart of San Jose's Latino community; then it goes through Little Saigon, which is one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam, and Calle Willow, which is kind of San Jose's undiscovered mission district."Bike Silicon Valley found strong support for the event from city staff, as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Mayor Sam Liccardo kicked off the ride with a rousing cry of it being "day one of the revolution" that he hopes will take off as it has in other cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.
Joanne Seavey-Hultquist of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said the extensive path is conducive to more folks joining in.
"It brings it right to your doorstep," she said, adding that it piques interest among those who may not have heard about the event. "People like to know what's going on."
At St. James Park, the crowd consisted of local bike fans as well as some from outside the area who commuted to join the party.
"I've been to Critical Mass in San Francisco," said Shawn Mauricio, who drove up from Monterey County to bike the streets with partner Bea Mendoza and their infant daughter. "I went to Critical Mass in Rome. But those can get a little more rowdy. I can bring my family here."
While a date for another event has not been set, the wheels are in motion. And Penalosa said that once that momentum begins, it rarely fails to start taking on speed.
But it's not the first time the idea has been sparked in San Jose. In 2010, a "ViaVelo" event closed off a mile of San Fernando Street in a similar fashion, to much positive reaction from officials although it did not become a regular affair.
"It has to be a city program to be a successful program," said Penalosa, who is optimistic that this go-round will catch on. "This is happening in hundreds of cities, all over the world. It's a very positive virus that's spreading."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.