By Allison Mannos, Urban Strategy Director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC)
We have begun to see a rise in the number of Californians, especially in Los Angeles, willing to ditch their cars and take up bike riding in the past few years. Group bike rides like the ”Midnight Ridazz,” bicycle repair co-ops like the Bicycle Kitchen, and CicLAvia have all commanded a new level of respect for the humble two-wheeled vehicle.
Yet, what about the Latino immigrant worker who uses their bike to get to work? Or the African-American and Chicana/o youth riding fixed gear bikes to school in low-income areas of our State? For these folks, bicycling is just a way of life, when their households cannot afford to buy cars or legally obtain drivers’ licenses. Yet, despite their large presence on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities, they are not seen as the population that puts a face to the bicycling movement.
That is starting to change. For example, on the state level, there are several bills championing increased safety and access for bicycling in low-income areas. The California Safe Routes to School Network and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) have teamed up to sponsor legislation that was recently signed by the Governor to increase by 50 percent the numbers of schools in low-income areas that receive Safe Routes to School grants. Those grants can pay for essential bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure within 2 miles of schools.
On the local level, here in Los Angeles, my organization, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) will be conducting the 2nd ever City of Los Angeles Bike Count. In 2009, we counted over 14,000 cyclists at 50 intersections throughout the City of Los Angeles. We have deliberately increased the numbers of intersections in very low-income parts of Los Angeles, including South Central, Central, East, and Northeast Los Angeles, as well as Pacoima/the Northeast San Fernando Valley. There are already many cyclists of color who ride within these areas, but because we don’t know exactly how many, bicycle infrastructure (bike lanes, bike boulevards, and cycle tracks) is almost non-existent. Gathering this key data is very important for us to be able to organize and advocate for these marginalized communities who are rarely part of the planning process.
Additionally, building off our data collection efforts, we have also successfully concluded one of our campaigns to get a bike lane on 7th Steet in the densely-populated neighborhoods of Koreatown and MacArthur Park. On September 8, we held a press conference with Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the area, and it was very symbolic. As I looked around me, I saw a diversity of cyclists: Latina/o, Asian-American, immigrant, families, and workers, all of whom can benefit from the safety of the new bicycle lane and its accompanying “road diet” (removal of a travel lane). This marked a special occasion as this was the first bicycle lane to be striped from the recent Bicycle Master Plan and in such a high need, underserved community. We also conducted preliminary counts along 7th St. before the bike lane was striped to leverage our campaign: community residents helped us do bicycle counts and interview Latino and Korean business owners. The report will be available in the coming months.
How can you get involved?
1) Ride your bicycle: Set an example for friends, family, and others by demonstrating that ordinary people and/or people of color ride bikes too! Share your wisdom on safe riding with them on a bicycle ride.
2) Volunteer for our Bike Count! We need help to make sure data in the low-income areas is collected in a complete and thorough manner. We’ll be conducting counts on Tuesday, September 13th: 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, as well as Saturday, September 17th: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Visit our website to sign up for a shift!
In traffic-choked L.A., a car lane is given to bicycles (Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
California Safe Routes to School Network
Councilman Ed Reyes
California Pan-Ethnic Health Network