The League of American Bicyclists kicks off Bike Month today with an awareness campaign to promote cycling, a push that originates back in 1956. Smack in the middle of Bike Month is Bike Week, the officially-designated (if brief) period when we can proclaim our exalted status as a two-wheeled champions with pride. Throughout Bike Week are a series of events to get us back in the saddle. Running from May 13th to the 19th this year, Bike Week finds much to do in the Southland. Here are a few of the events we’ll be attending.
Bike Month? “National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride,” the League of American Bicyclists says. “Whether you bike to work or school; to save money or time; to preserve your health or the environment; to explore your community or get to your destination, get involved in Bike Month in your city or state — and help get more people in your community out riding too!”
We couldn’t agree more. That’s just why we ride. Indeed just a few years ago in 2009, even Beverly Hills recognized the value of promoting cycling with an official Bike Month proclamation. Then just a few months later, City Council re-adopted our city’s 1977 Bicycle Master Plan without any changes – a cynical (if not illegal) move that only suggests indifference to the safety of riders. That spring the city created a Bike Plan Update Committee but in the time since we’ve seen little action. No new plan, no bicycle lanes, no new sidewalk bicycle racks, no signage. Just talk. Fortunately we can look to our neighboring cities to see that we’re appreciated.
Metro kicks off Bike Week on on Monday, May 13th with a 10am media event. Join local partners Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, C.I.C.L.E., Caltrans, and LADOT at Downtown’s Grand Park – the epicenter of Ciclavias these days and an emerging civic arena in a city that really needs one. If you’ve needed an excuse to bike Downtown, here’s your opportunity! Metro in fact is a driver, so to speak, of this celebration, and even marks the occasion with a new share-the-road PSA campaign to highlight the legitimate presence of riders on public roadways.
Our route: we’ll be heading to Grand Park (adjacent to City Hall) along Santa Monica Boulevard (not for the inexperienced rider!) with a prior stop at Sunset Junction’s Casbah for a cup o’tea. Then we’re continuing along Sunset Bl., one of our favorite routes because it not only traces the old red car route, it offers a view of old LA. As it transitions through Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Angeleno Heights on its way Downtown, one gets a glimpse of a largely-forgotten city of low-rent shops and shabby apartments that cling gamely to scrubby hills. It recalls the noir fiction of Chandler and the old ride-alongs of TV cop shows.
On Tuesday, May 14th we’re off to Good Samaritan Hospital’s Blessing of the Bicycles. It’s a good thing they offer the blessing because riders involved in bike collisions already contribute more than our fair share to any hospital’s bottom line. Late risers beware: the blessing runs only from 8am to 9:30am. 616 S. Witmer Ave. @6th St. in the Westlake section.
Our route? We’ll take Charleyville east, then hop on Wilshire to cross La Cienega & San Vicente, then bump up a block to 6th St. for the quiet ride underneath the trees. Alternately we could bump up to 4th at LaBrea for a sharrowed ride east but it’s not as scenic.
Thursday marks Bike to Work Day, the one day of the year that we encourage people to lay off the gas pedal and instead turn the crank as they make their way to work. Afterward, join the LACBC and its constellation of local chapters for ‘Bike from Work After Parties.’ Join up with other riders at some of our area’s best watering holes starting in late afternoon and running well into the evening.
Friday is Bike Night at the Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd.) starting at 6 PM and percolating later into the evening. Free festivities include bicycle portraits, a screening of the 1983 Australian action movie BMX Bandits (starring a young, not-yet-famous Nicole Kidman), bicycle-centric crafts, and free museum admission. They really know how to put on a show! Take Metro’s Wilshire Rapid line there or get a seat-of-the-pants introduction to the unexpectedly hilly topography of Condo Canyon.
Our route: we’ll take Charleville Blvd. west (yes, many stop signs!) to join North Santa Monica Blvd. near Century City. Then we’ll continue west to hook a right (north) on Westwood Blvd. to the museum. Bicycle lanes only start at the Beverly Hills border, of course, but they’ll take you all the way.
And finally, Friday also kicks off Metro’s Bike Local Weekend to remind us that we who ride play an important role in supporting local commerce by patronizing the small shops that make our neighborhoods better. Cities like Long Beach have taken the lead in recognizing that rider dollars spend like motorist dollars. Now the LACBC wants to expand awareness with their Connecting Neighborhoods through Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts shop local program.
You can do your part by dropping into a local business, helmet-in-hand, and make the point that we’re the foot traffic they need but without the vehicular traffic merchants don’t want. For some of us, the nearly $10k on average we saved this year by not owning a car can be spent to support the bars, restaurants and shops that welcome those who ride.
Here in Beverly Hills our Chamber of Commerce promotes their Buy Local program, but seems not to take to the message really to heart: it’s little more than a song-and-dance parody to justify support from City Hall coffers.) Likewise, if your local destination is in Beverly Hills, you STILL likely won’t find a bicycle rack in front of a small businesses.
LA River Ride is Coming
Looking ahead past Bike Month to summertime, we’ll be joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for LA River Ride – the annual kick-the-tires bike event and fundraiser that is our region’s largest organized ride. Spanning the Los Angeles River from the Autry Center (in Griffith Park) to the Long Beach Aquarium, this is a tour through old neighborhoods east of Downtown and forgotten working-class burghs and immigrant redoubts that orbit the behemoth city. This up-close-and-personal-look at the LA River is a reminder of the Army Corps over-exuberance.
Our route: We’ll probably take Beverly Blvd. east then Silver Lake Boulevard north to the junction with Glendale Bl. – the route of the old streetcar that reached north up into Glendale. Instead of crossing the 5 fwy we’ll turn left on Riverside Drive which takes us up into the park on Crystal Springs. This latter stretch is the reward for braving some of LA’s worst riding conditions. But we love it. See you there.