Stop any cyclist in South L.A. and ask them their thoughts on bike-to-work day and I can almost guarantee you’ll get a snort, a dismissive hand wave, and an, “Aw, man, I do this every day!”
It certainly describes the reaction I got from most people I spoke with who were riding in the area yesterday. And, it describes a lot of the reactions we got while handing out snacks, maps, and patch kits to commuters heading home on their bikes last night at the corner of Vermont Ave. and Martin Luther King Blvd. in South L.A.
So used to their daily ride were the commuters, in fact, Andres Ramirez and Malcolm Carson of Community Health Councils (CHC) — sponsors of the bike-to-work-day pit stop along with TRUST South L.A. — often found themselves chasing after cyclists and trying to convince them to stop, sometimes without luck.
“It’s FREE!” usually did the trick.
Once they managed to get them to stop, it was the cyclists’ turn to be curious about what we were doing there.
“So, bike-to-work-day is…um…it’s a thing?” a puzzled Isaiah asked, pulling out his calendar.
He regularly rides his bike or the bus between his home in Hyde Park and the south edge of downtown, where he works.
We tried explaining it was a once-a-year thing to encourage people to try cycling.
“Oh,” he said, putting his calendar back in his backpack.
He was suddenly more interested in the “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” bumper sticker.
“Can I put this on my bag?” he asked excitedly.
He was tired of people harassing him as he rode along MLK Blvd, he said. Especially because there wasn’t really anywhere else he could ride — he’d recently been cited for riding on the sidewalk near Crenshaw.
“I’ve seen these big billboards saying I can use the lane,” he said, “but people still honk at me to get out of the road.”
He was glad to hear that bike lanes were going in along MLK. Maybe he’d finally be able to ride in peace.
Yes, cars don’t respect cyclists at all, agreed a bicycle flower vendor (above). More lanes were definitely needed in the area.
Even with lanes, one woman (left) with her adorable son in tow wasn’t sure she’d feel safe enough to get in the road.
“My husband rides on the road,” she said. “But I stay on the sidewalks. It’s much safer that way.”
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We did meet a few people who were cycling by choice. Read more…