Beginning at 10 A.M. on Sunday, July 1, at Exposition Park, Thomas, the Rydaz and WARP will lead a tour through 10 miles of South L.A. to raise awareness about the problem of childhood obesity. The ride will also provide a chance to “introduce the community to the streets” as a recreational space, said Thomas, one of the Rydaz and an organizer of the event. The tour will end at a street festival at 86th St. and Vermont Ave. with live entertainment, fun activities for kids, a bicycle give-away, health outreach services, and a car show.
While Thomas — himself a survivor of both a heart attack and a stroke — believes the health message is important, there is another purpose to the event.
“It is a way to show the city that we need bike lanes here.”
The city’s bike plan calls for bike lanes along part of the July 1st route on Vermont Ave., from 88th to the 105 Freeway. Residents would like to see that happen sooner rather than later.
“There are 15 to 20 schools in the area,” said Thomas. “[Kids] need to be able to get to school safely.”
Staging a Ride: More Complicated than You’d Think.
The most obvious way to show the city that there is a demand for that kind of infrastructure is to get people out riding in force, CicLAvia-style. But even CicLAvia has struggled getting a southbound route off the ground. Despite their best efforts, both costs and Metro have proven prohibitive.
The funding stream CicLAvia organizers had hoped would pour in after the success of the first few events did not materialize, said Joe Linton, CicLAvia consultant. Instead, it has been “more of a trickle than a gush” — edging toward enough to cover the $200,000 necessary to stage the 10-mile route through the central part of the city, but not enough to extend it southward (there is still time to donate to CicLAvia here).
Funding notwithstanding, it would still be hard to get past Metro and their objections to having the route cross the Blue Line tracks at Central and Washington, said Linton. They have a number of concerns about safety, including the fear that kids could be hit by trains.
Because of issues like these, Thomas’ approach to the July ride has been a bit more do-it-yourself. While the Rydaz do plan to have road closures, they will only be partial (just one lane will be designated for the riders), and they will be setting up the thousand barricades themselves.
Even for a partial closure, the preparation has been quite intense, said Thomas, pulling out his event binder. It was stuffed to the brim with permits from both L.A. City and County offices as well as the petitions that must be signed by every single business along every single block of the 10-mile route. Fortunately, Thomas said, business owners have been very supportive and are hoping that the event will draw more people to the area.
Eyeing up the thick stack of petitions, I asked about the amount of time needed to get them all signed. Supportive or not, I said, the process required a lot of door-knocking.
True, he agreed, but said they had started the planning for the event last year. And, he concluded, it would be worth it for the community. It brings people in the area together in the streets while offering an opportunity for people from around Los Angeles to come down and celebrate what South L.A. has to offer.
If you would like to know more about the upcoming event or volunteer to help out with the South L.A. ride July 1, please contact Shuntain Thomas. If you would like to help out at CicLAvia, please check here.