“They poison our air, water, land, bodies, mind and dreams,” reads the sign held by a member of Occupy L.A. as thousands of bicycles shoot past. Many of the riders ring their bell, pump a fist, or stop to engage the protester as he stands in the streets and sidewalk in front of City Hall during last Sunday’s CicLAvia.
Across the street, the iconic Roadblock is hanging out at the Bikeside Speaks stage chatting with many of the bike advocates who are stopping by to listen to the speakers, chat with friends or wish Stephen and Enci Box well on their upcoming adventure.
“Natural fit, a natural fit,” Roadblock says of the convergence of CicLAvia, the largest car-free party in North America, and the Occupy movement. Roadblock has been involved with the local cycling movement as the face of Midnight Ridazz and has been a fixture at City Hall as part of the Occupy Movement.
Roadblock is combining his connections in the bike community with the needs of Occupy L.A. In a couple of years when the City of Los Angeles or Metro triumphantly announce that they’re bringing L.A. its “first bike share,” remember that Occupy L.A. had one first. Last night, I dropped in on Occupy L.A. with a pair of beach cruisers that have been collecting dust in our bike storage area the last couple of years.
While Roadblock was busy at a meeting last night, he directed me to “the big yellow tent” that serves as the Bike District for Occupy L.A. There, a group of twenty-somethings were wrenching on a bike. The group, which included a Bicycle Kitchen Cook, has been repairing and maintaining bikes for free to any Occupier that asked for help. To identify the bikes that will be part of the Occupy L.A. Bike Share, the team is painting the donated bikes gold.
It’s not a surprise that Los Angeles’ bike advocates and Occupy L.A. mesh so well together. For years the Boxs, Alex Thompson and the rest of the Bike Writers Collective (a sort of pre-Bikeside) organized “Storm the Bastille” rides to public hearings casting cyclists as the scrappy underdogs taking on the machine. Outside of political activism, locally organized bike rides have benefited everything from AIDS and Cancer research to homeless shelters to advocacy websites.
Towards the end of CicLAvia, I chatted with the occupier who was waiving the poison sign about his day. “A great day,” he smiled at me. It’s no surprise, bikes and social movements have a long history together.
If you have a bike you want to donate to Occupy L.A.’s bike share, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.