We have to call the 12th annual Los Angeles River Ride a success! This monster event organized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition brought thousands of riders to the bucolic splendor in Griffith Park for a ride down the river bike path and through some our most hardscrabble neighborhoods. This ride is unlike any other as participating cyclists sampled the variety of urban environments on offer, from the river to industrial moonscapes and finally to refreshing breeze at Long Beach (if you were hearty enough to make the 70-mile ride!)
We were on hand as a volunteer ‘ride marshal’ this year. Our mission was to fix the inevitable flat tires; to guide traffic at problematic hotspots; and to dispense safety advice to the tyros, who often struggled to keep to the right on the bike path and out of the way of the peloton, which is the casual rider’s nemesis on a casual Sunday ride.
And we did fix a few flat tires which seemed to happen in the most inopportune places – on desolate stretches of blacktop in Maywood and eerily quite streets near Downtown Los Angeles – but often without having the right tools on hand. Fortunately we had spare tubes courtesy of Specialized Cycle. When necessary we could refer a rider to one of the bike maintenance pit stops staged by the Cynergy shop in Santa Monica. There were plenty of marshals on hand to constantly ride the route looking for problems to solve and to hand out (ride sponsor) Clif Bars to bonked riders.
For the uninitiated, the River Ride is a choose-your-route deal. Riders on the 36-mile route turn around in Maywood (an industrial suburb known today as one of the ‘gateway cities’ between Long Beach and Downtown). The 70-milers continue on to Long Beach for their turnaround. And those hearty enough for a century ride tack on extra loops at both the northern and southern ends of the 70-mile ride. Long Beach riders for the first time this year could embark from a ride start down there.
One great thing about the LA River Ride is that it’s a very urban ride. Those expecting to hug the riverbank might be surprised to detour from the path to cross over the river on one of our many historic bridges from Lincoln Park into Downtown and then back again to enter the first suburb of Los Angeles, Boyle Heights. At nearly every route segment, cyclists see and feel this region’s history as a major producer, consumer and distributor of everything from autos to wine.
Yep – viticulture once thrived along this river, while auto-related manufacturing defined much of the basin’s interior industrial heartland in the mid-20th century. If the nation’s Midwest was the breadbasket, our region could be known as the ‘bolt basket.’ (And before that the ‘oil barrel.’) What’s left of our manufacturing legacy may not be as high-profile as Detroit’s carmakers nor as glamorous as Napa’s wineries, but it’s stuff we use everyday – products that we continue to send around the world: garments, plated metals, and aftermarket car parts. Our manufacturing legacy is threaded through many of the places on this ride, including Lincoln Heights:
The other thing that makes this ride special is that it’s a pillar event for our Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. It helps to fund this worthy organization that works for safer streets and greater recognition for cyclists. River Ride also shows off the organization’s mettle: from send-off at the Autry to return again for food and live music, LACBC staffers, volunteers, and hired-hands make it a safe and memorable event.
Every year the LACBC’s Los Angeles River Ride not only reminds us that the river is an essential element in our human-natural Southland ecology, but it helps to put cycling back on the collective consciousness of the Southland, and also on the political agenda of the policymakers who will one day deliver us the safe streets we’re entitled to expect.