- LA Bike Trains on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’
Listening to “All Things Considered” anywhere in America yesterday, December 1, 2013 and you might have heard this one..
As a lifelong NPR fan it was pretty sweet to get this surprise over the holiday weekend, with friends from all over the country freaking out and reposting it on facebook and twitter.
Check out the full article and audio here.
Of course when you’ve spent a 40,000+ hours on a project it’s hard to hear anything that isn’t the sweet sound of praise. But writer Alex Schmidt did us all a tremendous service by bringing in two somewhat jarring voices. The first Herbie Huff, who is a friend of mine, sort of negatively pointed out that you have to be pretty invested into a bike in order to participate -ie. already have a bike. That’s ..true. It’s a short piece so there wasn’t time to counter that we also work with bike shops to offer super awesome package deals for new commuters and that the cost of biking vs. driving means you could get 17 new bikes each year for the same cost of maintaining one car. (On average according to people who count that stuff.)
Next is the really outrageous part everyone’s talking about (hello, LA Bike Trains?) when a woman, Jackie Burke, agreed to speak and be named saying,
“It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes,” says Jackie Burke, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She says bicyclists drive her crazy when she’s in a car and has to slow down for them.
“It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”
At first I was a little horrified thinking that anyone listening would be put off from either looking into LA Bike Trains or participating because of such outrageous comments. But in having a national audience, we’re already seeing a silver lining: that recent yet neglected LA City anti-harassment ordinance that no one has been bold enough to use? That might be changing soon. For more commentary check out Niall’s blog post. He does a really clever thing by pointing out that you can contact NPR and let them know how disturbing the quote was, particularly that it was thrown in there without any condemnation or pointing out that it’s super illegal and deadly.
NPR’s listener feedback form.
I would hope that with enough ‘feedback’ a new story directly dealing with this will create a powerful new national dialogue on respect and human dignity.
Here is Niall’s letter that you might consider using as a template for your own response.To the editor:
You deserve praise for covering the L.A. Bike Trains phenomenon, in which experienced bike commuters help novices learn how to travel safely by bike. It was horrifying, however, to hear the comments of Los Angeles resident Jackie Burke, who admitted to wanting “to run them [cyclists] off the road” and said “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”
This kind of sociopathy is seriously disturbing, and I as I ride my own bike around the streets of Los Angeles, I shudder to think how many motorists hold the view that it is ever OK to use a motor vehicle to intimidate or threaten another human being. Does Ms. Burke not realize that she is admitting to having committed menacing and assault?
I urge Ms. Burke and others with a similar attitude to get some perspective. City and suburban streets are not freeways. They provide access to homes and businesses and have to be usable by everyone and by all types of vehicles, including slower-moving ones. There is no entitlement to drive as fast as one wants all the time, and drivers need to be prepared to share the street with different types of vehicles that are legally allowed to be there. Sometimes this means waiting for a few seconds until it’s safe to overtake. And it really is a matter of seconds — I drive on Los Angeles’ streets too, and I rarely spend even so much as 30 seconds waiting to pass a bicyclist. Considering that traffic signal cycles can sometimes create delays of a minute or more, the delays caused by bicyclists are trivial, and certainly not worth risking the serious injury or death of another human being over.
With gas prices rising and the cost of living in urban areas going up, bicycles are going to be a fixture on the streets of American cities for many years to come as commuters try to slash costs. We need to cultivate a more humane environment on our roadways to accommodate this new reality. A well-connected network of protected bike lanes, separate from car traffic, would do wonders to ease tensions, as would bicyclist and motorist education regarding the rules of the road for each.
Until we get these things in our cities, would-be bicycle commuters are left to their own devices, and groups like L.A. Bike Trains are going to keep using safety in numbers to bring novices into the fold. Instead of threatening these people from the inside of her vehicle, perhaps Ms. Burke should go on a ride and get a cyclist’s perspective on traffic.
- Ten Years of Ghost Bikes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Friday, October 24, 2013
TIME: 7 -11pm LOCATION: 4357 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, California 90029
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Opening Friday, October 24, 2013 The international art movement begun in 2003 celebrates ten years of art, advocacy and community with the first ever gallery show. Family members, Ghost Bike and transportation advocates, artists and friends will be in attendance. Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally – or sometimes critically – injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic.They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous. Ghost Bikes of LA is an informative and inspiring look at how art and awareness are bringing people closer together and changing our cities for the better.
- Sunday, Oct. 27: 12 – 4pm family members speak + How to make a Ghost Bike
- Saturday, Nov. 2: Ride to Hollywood Forever’s Day of the Dead
- Thursday, Nov. 14: 7pm LA Memorial Ride on Andy’s Candle Light Vigil
- Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013: 4-8pm Closing Reception
Red#5 Yellow#7 is a gallery dedicated to advancing the mainstream dialogue on contemporary cycling issues.
- bicycle convention season
A few weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for Interbike, focused on the mass commercialization of bicycling (meh) and spent last week in New Orleans ( <3 NOLA!) for bike!bike! the indie non-conference mainly focused on bike co-ops. Next month I’ll be in the bay area for the CalBike summit. I’ve just finished giving 7 (!!) talks on things from working with non-profits, city agencies and community outreach to branding, bike trains, illegal activist art and getting more women on bikes. In other words, it’s been exhausting, rewarding and revolutionary.
And I want to share it with you!
So please be patient (and encouraging!) while I bring all these things together, collect images and links. If you’ve got a few dollars, donate me some coffee (or better yet – New Orleans DAIQUIRI) dollars.
Here’s what’s coming up:
- Guerrilla Bike Art: History & Techniques
- Supporting Cities to Support Cycling
- Bike Trains & Bike Caravans in “Car Orientated Cities”
- The Real Secret to Getting Women on Bikes
- September 30, 2013
ALL ABOARD THE L.A. BIKE TRAINWOMEN BIKEby Carolyn Szczepanski
As part of our Women on a Roll series last week, we showcased the importance of confidence in getting more women on bikes. In our live webcast, we delved into the impact and influence of educational outreach — providing relevant and welcoming classes and programs that provide women the skills and self-assurance to ride (and wrench!).
But confidence extends beyond the classroom, co-op or the bike shop.
Out in Los Angeles, Nona Varnado is “conducting” a different kind of outreach to encourage hesitant riders to give biking a try.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to catch up with Varnado at Interbike — but she’s certainly not new to the scene. She’s been focused on increasing the number of women on bikes through her fashion line, mentorship, and advocacy for years. Immediately, two of her (new) projects stood out to me as particularly innovative and promising when it comes to increasing confidence and community among women: LA Bike Trains and an art gallery focused on cycling.
In this Women Bike Q&A, Varnado shares some insight on how she’s helping to drive the exciting bike scene in the City of Angeles.
1) You fairly recently moved across the country from New York City to Los Angeles — what was that transition like and how would you describe the bike community in LA?
Even before I set foot in Los Angeles, I was given a call by a fantastic community organizer named Patrick Miller who spent two hours on the phone with a stranger telling me how supportive the local political scene is (coming from the NYC cycling advocacy world I was immediately jealous); that biking in LA was all about big, non-competitive rides based around creative themes; that there are bike co-ops all over the city and the most interesting groups and personalities are headed by women. He then took me on my first Passage Ride, re-introduced me to TJ Flexer at Orange 20 Bikes and several leaders of the LA bike community.
It’s only in the past few years that women have started to equalize or exceed men in advocacy or planning. But in LA you see the Ovarian Psychos, The Bodacious Bike Babes (BBB!) in the community, Ma Bell holding it down at the Bike Kitchen and an overwhelmingly female staff at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. It creates a different kind of atmosphere that’s more social, welcoming and complex. We all have our place and there’s plenty of space for everyone. Which is not to say there isn’t the usual bike drama. That totally happens. But more relaxed.
2) One really exciting project you’ve launched is LA Bike Trains. Tell us a little bit more about that. What is it and how did it get started?
When I moved to LA I discovered a whole new social bike ride culture. Giant or small groups that would meet up around a theme, usually at night, and ride as a moving party. I had heard of Midnight Ridazz, but it seemed very strange to me that people, even within the city, would drive their bikes to a mellow ride and then drive home. In New York City, and other places I’ve lived in, riding a bike in a city is pure transportation (or sport), so I recognized that as a key cultural difference. At the same time, I almost became a car person because riding around LA seemed so terrifying. I realized that there’s a complicated series of things that a potential bike commuter/city cyclist has to learn in order to ride safely (or at least confidently) and the only way to do that is to ride and learn from other people who have that knowledge and experience. Google maps might help, but only if you’re already there in terms of experience.
From my friendship with Kim Burgas who runs bike trains in NYC, I realized the combination of social rides for transportation could be a serious game changer for a place like Los Angeles. I saw what has traditionally been small friend/co-worker groups as a scalable transportation model that can be flexible enough even for the complexity of a megalopolis. I’m usually opposed to phrases that have become popular business jargon, but in this case it’s completely appropriate: empowering a huge number of people too afraid or uncomfortable to bike, even occasionally, is something that can show the world that sprawl is not something that we as a society have to turn our backs on. And if Los Angeles can do it – anyone – at any time can do it. So far the response has been fantastic. People were waiting for something like this. We’re currently 10+ routes and looking to find a way to raise money in order to expand.
3) You’ve gotten a lot of press and interest even in the first few months of the Bike Trains — what have been been some of the challenges and successes?The biggest challenge has been being turned down for fiscal sponsorship. I’ve put in a year of work and it’s emotionally hard to pack it in and keep going without support or a financial path forward. Everything costs money. The success and reward comes constantly from working with a team of volunteers who are the best and brightest in the cycling advocacy community, continually impressing me with their creativity and generosity.
We’ve become a team that several organizations look to in order to advance policy, outreach and community development in just a few months. When one of our conductors got harassed by an uninformed highway patrol officer, it became such a viral issue that we could bring the LAPD into conversation. That’s amazing. On an individual level the conductors all agree that it’s the direct impact we have on specific individuals. For example: When you see someone go from barely able to ride through an intersection without freaking out, to showing up with a brand new bike and telling you about how they ride to work even when there isn’t a bike train. We’ve had conductors fix up bikes, help riders get into better shape, get people educated about bikes and local resources and begin to develop a whole new demographic of confident, happy bike commuters.
A lot of our riders are people that the rest of the bike industry doesn’t want to address: adults who don’t race, don’t understand anything about bikes, don’t identify themselves as cyclists and don’t yet understand why a bike should cost more than $150. By the time they’ve participated even just two times most people start to get it. Our biggest supporter is Orange 20 Bikes, an independent shop in East Hollywood that’s very mission aligned with LA Bike Trains. They’ve supported us financially, provided logistical support as well as being the first shop to offer a package deal for LA Bike Trains. The goal with that is to help get people on a quality geared road bike with a helmet, lock and all the support of a local bike shop for an affordable price. We’d like to work through as many barriers to participation as we possibly can.
4) Your not just a conductor, but also a curator too. Why did you create R5Y7?
I have been producing a line of women’s urban cycling apparel since 2008 and struggled with connecting to potential customers. I saw that two things were necessary: We need more women riding everyday and I need to be able to interact with the public in an open environment where conversations can happen organically. No woman is going to buy pants on the internet unless the return policy is as free, easy and well known as Zappos. A small brand can’t afford to do that, so you’ve got to be in a spot where people can find their way to you, touch things, try them on and give feedback.
In working on problem #1 (not enough women riding bikes everyday), I saw that the ‘retail’ solution would also be an excellent advocacy tool. No one really knows how to effectively bring in non-cyclist to talk about bikes. But what if we had a really awesome gallery that just happened to revolve around bikes, able to frame the conversation to the art/design community or education and entertainment demographics? R5Y7 is an experimental lab: We can see what works — and what doesn’t. We’ve found new ways to engage a sleepy and disparate local network with informative lifestyle workshops. The gallery installations appeal to other media outlets and visitors. The ability to do fancy product launches for a fraction of the expected cost means more sexy bike brands can access the LA market – and that LA will respond by showing up and doing what other cities have:make cycling desirable.
I love being able to go back to my roots as an artist through curating shows. The workshops are immediately gratifying and much easier, but there’s a transformative power that objects have. It gets boring talking all the time. Visual experiences are key.There’s also the constant sense that it’s impossible and just when I’m afraid that I may have gone too far people respond to artist calls, journalists show up to parties and people some times even buy things. It’s wild.
5) How do you think the Bike Trains and R5Y7 tie into your overarching goal with The Bird Wheel — to create a more welcoming bike culture for women?
I think the most important part of reaching out to women is to do so from an authentic and creative voice that acknowledges that things aren’t perfect. But that imperfection, exploration, trying things out is inherently interesting and rewarding. LA Bike Trains is partially a tool for someone to have a non judgemental guide help become knowledgeable without embarrassment (a process many women feel more comfortable with) as much as it is a breakfast club. R5Y7 is similar: We try to provide interesting or beautiful experiences without requiring anything more than showing up – but if it resonates than it can become a lifelong interest or passion.
The Bird Wheel was always intended to bring a female perspective to a wide range of timely subjects. At the same time I try to be transparent that I’m not unbiased. The most rewarding experience that I remember having from writing The Bird Wheel is when the amazing Laura Solis biked from the Bronx to an event I held in Brooklyn (and on a workday!) to thank me for introducing her to all the amazing advocacy and culture groups she’s at the forefront of… through reading the blog. I never knew!
- 3′ Passing Bill Signed into Law
Sometimes the third time IS the charm. On a third re-introduction to state legislature, Gov Brown has signed the revised Three Feet for Safety Act.
From the ktla article: ”Assembly Bill 1371 was authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena.. Existing law requires drives to pass while keeping at a “safe distance,” but the new law establishes exactly what that distance is: 3 feet.
The city of Los Angeles — known for generations as a car-centric locale — sponsored the bill. In recent years, enthusiasm for cycling in L.A. has been buoyed by the support of a growing activist community and politicians such as former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The city in 2010 launched a “Give Me 3″ graphic campaign encouraging drivers to create a safe cushion between vehicles and bicyclists.”
The “Give Me 3″ #giveme3 slogan was developed by artist Danny Gamboa, of ZKO Films and avid Ghost Bikes activist in Los Angeles. Upon hearing news of the bills passing, Danny exclaimed an elated, “finally!” and joked that “I’d like to thank Antonio Villaraigosa’s Elbow for starting this campaign that lead the 3 foot law.” It belies the years of work that advocates from all levels: grassroots campaigners and individuals, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition at the city/regional level and the California Bicycle Coalition at the state level.
“Earlier versions of the 3-foot passing law were vetoed by Brown in 2012 and 2011, with the governor expressing concern about certain provisions that troubled Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, according to the Los Angeles Times.”
And each time the bill was altered – for better and for worse. According to Ted Rogers, of ‘Biking in LA’ -“This one was written specifically to address Gov. Brown’s rationales for vetoing the last two bills. It allows drivers to pass at less than three feet if necessary, but requires them to slow down and pass safely, rather than slowing to 15 mph as in the first version. And it doesn’t contain any provision allowing drivers to briefly crossing the center line to pass cyclists, which was the reason given for vetoing the last version.On the other hand, it would appear to apply to passing any cyclist in any situation, rather than just in the same lane. Which means drivers would have to give you three feet, even if you’re riding in a bike lane or parking lane.”
KTLA: “Violations are punishable by a $35 base fine, which comes to $154 with additional fees, according to the California Bicycle Coalition. Drivers who collide with cyclists and injure them while violating the law will be subject to a $220 fine.”
At a Public Safety Committee in LA it was voiced that the reason for such a small fine was to encourage officers to ticket – without either personal feelings that the offense wasn’t worth a fine or to be subject to sympathy that the offender wouldn’t be able to bear the expense of a more severe fine. Considering that you pretty much can’t park in LA without accidentally racking up $50-$200 in fines, it smells of… something.
KTLA: “The law, among 15 signed by Brown Monday, is slated to take effect Sept. 14, 2014.”
Advocate and LA Bike Trains conductor Michael MacDonald explains the delay: “the law has been enacted and will go into effect 9/16/2014 after law enforcement and municipalities have been educated on the change to the vehicle code.”
Twenty-one states have similar laws, according to a list compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures in June.”