At its best, biking in Los Angeles is a climate-friendly means of transport, leisure and economic exercise. However, in the worst case scenario, biking in Los Angeles can be a dangerous task: traversing an incomplete network of faded white paint, kilometers of unprotected bike lanes that become public roads where cyclists compete with cars that move at high speeds. Over the past five years, 96 bicyclists have died on Los Angeles highways, an average of 18 a year, according to data from the Los Angeles police. So far this year, six people have died, including Andrew Jelmert, a 77-year-old real estate agent hit by a driver in Griffith Park in April; and Leonidas Accip Serech, who died in a hit and run accident in Koreatown.
That same week, a third cyclist, John Hermoso, died while driving near Santa Clarita, outside the Los Angeles city limits. Despite these dangers, a robust 3% of L. A. residents - some 120,000 people - out of ingenuity, will, joy or necessity, forge their daily trips to work and other trips on two wheels.
Michael Runnels, adjunct professor of business law at Cal State LA; Lena Williams, a community organizer; and Pauletta Pierce all experience the city differently through thin rubber tires as they glide between neighborhoods with smooth pavements and those whose roads are riddled with potholes. We decided to ask some of them why they ride bicycles in Los Angeles - a city where advances in infrastructure and safety seem to be progressing by leaps and bounds - and how to have fun despite the inconvenience. It was they who, before the Internet, transported court documents to law firms and courts. And it was they who encouraged me to ride a bike when I worked in a coffee shop in the center of the city.
They told me: “As long as you're in the gutter or on the road, you can be there; you have every right to be there”. So I made the decision to start cycling to work and home for safety reasons - if people don't get close to you, they can't catch you. That's when I personally felt connected to my tribe because cyclists deeply appreciate the natural world. It just makes me feel like family and being in my community - especially on group trips.
I've never lived in Los Angeles but I've probably been pedaling along the Santa Monica Beach Trail - it's the most fun you can have on a bike without cars! I was biking around the waterfront area of Venice one Saturday and it was beautiful - seeing a lot of people biking and walking around made me appreciate what L. could be if it were really impressive. The Bicycle Kitchen started in 2000 with about 30 people who rode bicycles as a means of transportation. Two years later there were about 2000 or 3000 people deep in Los Angeles on bike rides at night in themed costumes - something revolutionary! And that meant going to cumbia concerts, going to punk shows, tacos, attractions for drunks and parties.
A change in state law last year gave local officials some leeway allowing Los Angeles to lower speed limits on major corridors for the first time in decades. The Department of Transportation is also testing universal basic mobility - a program that provides South Los Angeles residents with cheaper and cleaner options for getting around. So what is the average speed of a typical bike ride in Los Angeles County? According to research conducted by experienced mountain bikers, the average speed of a mountain biker is ≈ 16 kph (10 mph) while driving on a trail. Uphill sections average ≈ 8 mph (13 kph) and downhill sections average ≈ 12 mph (19 kph).
To the experience of riding a bike there are things that I like to ride for like going to Bruce Beach or small local businesses in the area but cycling itself is a meditation in motion that is closely linked to my spiritual practice - it's my mirror that keeps me honest.