Los Angeles is really surprising a lot of folks lately, with tons of great energy for biking and walking initiatives emerging from a sprawling city usually known for being very car-centric.
In my work as an advocate for trails, it is places like L.A. that intrigue me; where space for active recreation is desperately lacking, where the built landscape presents so many challenges, and where there is so much at stake for the people who live there.
For example, in Compton, where we are working with locals to improve the Compton Creek Trail, there is less than one acre of open space per 1,000 residents, well below the national recommendation of 10 acres per 1,000 residents. And so the people of Compton have few opportunities to incorporate physical activity in their day-to-day lives - to ride a bike, to jog, to walk to the store or even to take a relaxing stroll with friends, all of which has a huge impact on their health and well-being.
So it is awesome to see L.A. producing so many passionate and engaged locals promoting biking and working to improve their communities in one way or another. Here are just a few things I've been excited to hear about lately...
CicLAvia. This L.A. version of the worldwide phenomenon now attracts upward of 150,000 riders, a clear indication of the pent-up demand for a car-free bicycling environment. Main roads are temporarily closed to car traffic and replaced with bikes (right), music and entertainment. The next CicLAvia event is October 6. All the info at: www.ciclavia.org. Last year the City of Los Angeles gave $1 million to CicLAvia, a sign of the administration's pro-bike efforts but also recognition that the event is doing tremendous things for the city's public profile!Photo courtesy www.ciclavia.org/
L.A. River Ride. Realizing the powerful message that thousands of riders in one place sends to the city's planners and decision makers, our friends at Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition host the L.A. River Ride each year. The River Ride is a catalyst of the growing momentum behind plans to build and connect a thorough network of trails and bike lanes along the rivers in the L.A. area. More info at: la-bike.org/riverride
East Side Riders. Based in South L.A., the East Side Riders (below, left) is a bicycle club with a mission to prevent kids from joining gangs and using drugs, and helping efforts to enrich their community. The Watts area is rife with high rates of obesity, asthma and other health problems, and so bike riding is seen as an important, affordable and accessible activity to encourage. Similarly, in a community with clear gang-related boundaries and territories that limit the movement of young people based on where they reside, bikes represent freedom of movement, and access to other social and employment opportunities. It's incredible when something as simple as two wheels and a paved pathway becomes so loaded with significance. More info (and photo courtesy of): www.eastsideriders.org.
Downey Bicycle Coalition. This volunteer-based organization is a new chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and is encourage their community to make the most of the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River bike paths - part of the Emerald Necklace trail network - that pass through the community of Downey. This group got started just this year, and led its first Bike to School Day event last May, with about 300 participants. It's a group I think we are going to hear a lot more about in the future. More info: www.facebook.com/downeybike
Keep it up, L.A. RTC is proud to be working with you.