You’ll notice that I often talk about alternatives to driving everywhere in Los Angeles. Sometimes I talk about bikes (see for example the last post) as part of a range of options. Well, in December last year a student at USC doing a project in journalism (Lauren Lee – she’s at the Annenberg School) did a short report on bikes and the city for her project. (See also some of my posts about this issue, such as here, here, here, and several posts in the list at the bottom of this one). In her research, Lauren found this blog, gave me a call, and I agreed to make a few comments to camera for her as part of her larger report on some of the changes that are happening here in Los Angeles. (She also interviews Adam and Josef Bray-Ali, owners of the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (hey, they have a blog)– a bike that might interest you.)
I should preface it with some remarks of my own. It is a nice report, but she edited out all the things I said that I think get at a central and key point. (To be fair, she was trying to make a two minute report, and I was babbling on enough for a Spike Lee four-part documentary…) I’m not advocating that everyone cycle everywhere they need to get to. Instead, I’m trying to get across the idea that cycling works really well in combination with the public transport system that already exists. One of the reasons people give most often for not using public transport is that the bus or subway stop is not quite close enough to where they want to get to, and/or close enough to their home. Leaving aside the cases where that sometimes this means “more than one block” or “not right next to my garage”, I’m trying to get across the idea that the extra mile (or so) gap can be plugged by cycling. You can take bikes onto all MTA buses (they have bike racks), and onto the subway and light rail systems (away from some peak hours), and it is really really easy. (You can also, as I do, get a folding bike you can take onto the bus or fold on the subway during peak hours and thus be completely independent of any restrictions. Get one? The good folk at FoldingBikesWest can help you out – hey, they have a store close to LA now!). (Don’t hold your breath while waiting for the fulfillment of my momentary hope a while back that Los Angeles would leap forward after the success of Velib system in Paris and introduce it here.)
You don’t have to be a die hard and cycle clear across the city. Lauren, in the report, inadvertently makes my case far more dramatic than it really is by implying that I cycle to USC twelve miles each way every day. I don’t. Sometimes I do, for a change of scenery (ride with me on one such journey in this post and this one), but on most days I cycle to the bus stop or the subway. This is a mode I think can work for a lot of people. Most people would consider devotion to 12 miles or so a day to be more in the realm of cycling enthusiast, and they don’t think of themselves as such. Fair enough. I don’t think of myself as one either. In fact, the other day someone mentioned that cycling was a hobby of mine, to which I responded “Do you consider driving your hobby?”. Although they drive at least 10 or 20 journeys in their car for every one I do, they said no. It is just a way to get around. Exactly. Same here. I just walk and bike for a lot of my getting around. In short, I’d like it if cycling (and the wide variety of people who cycle) in this city was not presented as some sort of extremist activity (done by extremists or enthusiasts). Rather, it’s just a way (a really nice way) of getting around, and as a by-product, deeply engaging with the city in a way you can never do with a car.
Here’s Lauren’s nice video: