Riding the Counterculture Wave in LA

The Flying Pigeon LA shop, your friendly neighborhood mainstream counterculture bike shop! Part of our cargo bike selection is pictured above.

The Flying Pigeon LA shop, your friendly neighborhood mainstream counterculture bike shop! Part of our cargo bike selection is pictured above.

It took a cross-continental love and a couple of long plane trips, but a Canadian has nailed LA’s emergent cycling scene: it’s not a subculture we’re a part of her in Los Angeles’ cycling community, it’s a “mainstream counterculture”. There is much more from the Bespoke blog post “Los Angeles & the ‘Mainstream Counterculture’” published on December 5, 2009:

“[T]he Flying Pigeon shop represents the very mainstreaming of a bike culture in its most un-bifurcated and pure distillation. In cities like Toronto the ‘mainstream’ cyclist you would see in Holland or Copenhagen is often considered a bourgeoise counter to the existing bicycle sub-cultures. This, of course is strange given that a pricier bike hardly represents economic stratification as much as a simple practical investment with an excellent rate of return. But the bicycle has always been tied to ideology or subculture in North America. There is often little room for tribal unanimity between the ‘outlaw’ values of the fixed-gear hipster, the left-of-center views of the student-run activist co-ops, and the everyday cyclist who just wants to be safe and stylish (and values their bike for the simple reason that it does its job). In LA the situation is quite different, and the Flying Pigeon bicycle store embraces the entire cross-section of bicycle culture into a beautifully inclusive package. The Flying Pigeon bike store grew directly out of the Bike Oven, a bicycle co-op started by Josef in his garage and is now a full-fledged LA institution. Flying Pigeon and the Bike Oven intersect the highly inclusive bike culture of Los Angeles. By making cycling available to the working poor, the anarchist activists, the fixed-gear bike kids and even the rich Hollywood celebrities, Flying Pigeon is a total free-for-all. But then so is Los Angeles. When you are battling a concept like Los Angeles (and Los Angeles is a concept), it doesn’t matter what you ride; the mere act of riding reflects the most basic shared value. Ride past another cyclist and they will give you a wave. That never happens anywhere else.”

The Bike Kitchen, the Bike Oven, BikeRoWave, Bike Writers Collective, Bike Week Pasadena, BikeSummitLA 2009 and all the myriad rides that have happened over the past 5 years in L.A. – it is not some unitary fixed-gear tribe running the show! There is too much diversity in L.A.’s bike community: in bikes, in age, in ethnic identities, and class membership.

I remember well the first Santa Monica Critical Mass I went on (my first group ride). The ride was packed with both young and old, rich and poor, dark skinned and light, with braniacs and the bone-headed all mashed together with everyone simply going for one collective rolling tour through our streets. We were collectively practicing living a life without the barriers normally in place that prevent us from enjoying one of humanity’s finest inventions: bicycling on a well-paved road.

Thanks to Mikeal Colville-Anderson for his article “Behavioral Changes for Urban Cycling“, on his blog Copenhagenize, which in turn got Eric from 4th Floor Distribution to write his essay on LA “Los Angeles & the ‘Mainstream Counterculture’“. If either of you gentlemen stops in town again, please make it a point to borrow any bike in the shop and enjoy yourselves on a Midnight Ridazz ride, one of our Get Sum Dim Sum runs, or on a self-guided tour of LA’s building and infrastructure.

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One Comment

  1. Erik
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Wow, good write up and good links provided.
    There really does seem to be a tribal mentality among many cyclist. It may take a gas price increase and a city by city effort but, I think there is a real opportunity for change in not only making bikes more mainstream but also the way we plan cities.

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