I had a chance, this past Thursday night, to take part in a discussion (really more of a round-the-room introduction) with over a dozen bicycle personalities, advocates, activists, and just plain folks who ride. The round robin talk was produced and held at the Habeas Lounge and took place on Thursday, November 12, 2009 (which was the same night as the Downtown Art Walk).
I was invited to come join the talk because I ride around the city with my daughter in a special cargo bike (which we now sell at our shop) called a “bakfiets”. Some of the things I brought up:
- “Cyclists” conjures up images of a Lance Armstrong wannabe. A stereotype which hurts people like me, who ride in normal clothes with my baby girl in the front of my bike. I want to live a happy life, and bikes a great facilitator of “the good life”. So, in advocacy work don’t just focus on “bike riding” – focus on making life for those of us without leisure time nor loads of cash (to do road bike racing and riding) a little bit better. Traffic calming sounds better than “bike lane” to me!
- Riding alone on your bike is not the same as riding with your kid(s)! In LA, the sheer abuse meted out by the roadway is often unacceptable for an infant to take. You are forced to make decisions based on factors that might have never entered your bike riding universe before. Most neighborhoods have side streets – these are the saving grace that allow you to ride in peace!
- This city is insultingly noisy, and one screaming, squealing, bus waking your sleeping baby from a nap will ruin your whole day’s plans. My daughter now has some rifle range ear muffs to protect her from the noise on big streets with major bus activity. Most side streets are fine – but the way LA designs its thoroughfares, noise is a big factor to be dealt with.
There was a bunch of other insightful and interesting stuff people talked about: Ma Bell from the Bicycle Kitchen shared her story, and organizer from the Bus Riders Union gave a brief talk, a USC professor who rides a folding bike said his piece, and the inspirational CicLAvia crew really gave my spirits a boost (especially after several years of miserable results tangling with the City of LA for better bike facilities and laws).