May was national Bike Month and with the encouragement of many organizations and businesses, many people got on their bikes the first time in months or even years.
It was a joy to see lots of women and people of all ages and all colors riding down the street, dressed up, dressed down, in sports gear and in business suits, trying out our streets on two wheels, getting to know their neighborhood and our infrastructure from a very different perspective.
As much as I love watching more people get on bikes, I also cringe and feel my heart skip when I see people ride against traffic on the street, go much too fast on the sidewalk, make turns without slowing down and looking for traffic, or even zig zag in and out from parked cars. Traffic laws differ in each State and even within the County itself it can be confusing what one person can do when riding a bike, what is legal or illegal, or what is safe vs. not safe.
I would like to encourage all of you who ride a bike to follow the law, mostly because of your own safety and the safety of pedestrians if you ride on the sidewalk.
I’ve been involved with the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force since its formation in January 2010 and we’ve been working on a Bicycle Training program for the Los Angeles Police Department. A couple months ago the final training video has been released to the public. See if you know the answers to the questions. I’m sure you will learn a lot of new things that you might have not been aware of. Check out the San Francisco PD video as well, that inspired a lot of cyclists here in LA.
With the fun of riding a bike also comes the problem of locking up safely and securely. It is sad to see bikes being stolen or stripped off their lights, bells and even seats sometimes. If you have an expensive bike, I would suggest to take it inside the store or business that you are visiting. And be sure to buy a good lock! Cheap locks can be cut easily and your bike can be gone withing a minute. Thieves are quick.
I would suggest that you invest in a Kryptonite lock, and lock up your bike where it’s safe, visible (you want to be visible as well when you need to bend over to unlock your bike), and where your bike is not obstructing pedestrian traffic. There are many kinds of bike parking facilities but unfortunately most of them in the City of LA are not only bad but also criminal. They are in the back, hidden, not adhering to any bike parking standards, and they motivate people to get back into their cars.
If you’d like to take some bicycling skills classes (I took one a few years ago and recommend these classes to everyone!), check out Sustainable Streets, one of the best organizations in LA, who work on making streets safer for ALL people, regardless of their mode of transportation.
As Einstein said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”. Stay on your bike now that you are finally riding one, and don’t let anything discourage you from riding! Take a class, organize some group rides, go camping on a bike with the family. Biking is fun, healthy, efficient and if I may say so, it’s also sexy.
I wish you all a safe, fun and bikeable Summer!
Enci is the publisher of the theatre site Bitter Lemons, the Co-Founder of the Bike Writers Collective, she’s on the board of Bikeside, on the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, on the SAG Conservatory Committee, and she works with government entities to make Los Angeles more bike-friendly and bike-conscious.
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