As one of the few attendees at the recent Live.Ride.Share. forum from South Los Angeles, aspiring bicycle co-op founder Ade Neff said he felt frustrated by what he wasn’t hearing. While the many of the advocates on hand had fantastic visions for the future of transportation in Los Angeles, they often seemed to gloss over the more complex needs of lower-income communities of color and deficiencies in the existing transit system that those communities already depended on.
“My daughter’s bus stop was in the bushes!” he said of the absence of infrastructure at the stop where she and her classmates disembarked near their school. “Nobody is talking about that…” or basic things, like finding ways to make the uncomfortable daily struggle of transit-dependent parents to get on and off crowded buses while juggling children, strollers that need to be folded, and multiple bags easier.
And, he felt, the kinds of mobility hubs he was hearing about — and could possibly be established at sites like the coming Leimert Park Metro station — featuring bike share, a repair shop, and other amenities could be great for visitors and those of means but nowhere near sufficient to address the needs of residents like himself.
Beyond the lack of bike infrastructure and poor connectivity of existing networks either within South L.A. or linking it to other communities, the lack of affordable resources to support lower-income cyclists can make obtaining and maintaining a quality bicycle a real challenge.
“Right now,” he explained, “I have to travel 8 miles to get to a [bicycle] co-op.”
There are a few shops in the vicinity of Leimert Park, but parts and repairs can be costly. So Neff, a recent graduate with a Masters in Urban Sustainability, Capoeira teacher, and father to a middle-schooler who has to watch his budget, makes the trek to toward Venice to visit the Bikerowave.
He, at least, has the ability to get to a co-op and knowledge of what he needs once he’s there. Too often, when the bikes of those of lesser means break down, the bikes go into the garage and stay there. Repairs can be put off for months — even if it is something as simple as a flat tire or a slipped chain that they could have fixed on their own. Folks that have no other means of transportation sometimes make crude DIY fixes and continue to ride around on unsafe bikes.
Recently, when helping out a bike clinic at a charter middle school near Culver City, Neff said he was dismayed to see the problem extended to younger kids, as well.
“No matter how much I adjust the brakes,” he mimicked braking on one of several unrideable bikes he worked on, “it’s not gonna stop [this] bike.”
In his head, he began creating a list of each of the things the kids would need to make their bikes street-worthy before he realized there was no point. Most wouldn’t have the money for those kind of overhauls.
That absence of affordable resources in his community, Neff said, is a key reason he’s looking to launch a co-op in Leimert Park Village some time in the next year.
But it’s not the only one. Read more…