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Streetsblog Interview Series: Aktive

Aktive takes the Mayor for a spin at CicLAvia.  Photo: Midnight
Aktive takes the Mayor for a spin at CicLAvia. Photo: Midnight

I can't remember the first time I met Aktive, but it seems that every time I'm in the Northeast L.A. "Bike District" I run into him.  Going to an event at the Bike Oven?  There's Aktive.  Getting the baby bike together at Flying Pigeon?  There's Aktive.  June fundraiser?  Aktive.

In a lot of ways, the story of Jesse Ramon is emblematic of what's been going on with the bicycle community these last several years.  Ramon went from non-rider to M.O.M. Rider, to ride leader in a short span.  Now, the constantly optimistic rider is part of the group that's been trying to work with the LAPD to make Critical Mass and other group rides as safe as they should be.

That being said, I still find it hard to imagine a rider wearing a vest with a giant marijuana leaf patch sewed into the back having the respect of the LAPD team policing Critical Mass.  But if you're at the front of the ride, and Aktive isn't sidelined with a bug as he was last month, you'll see that the bike cops respect him almost as much as his fellow riders do.

Over the last couple weeks I had a chance to chat with Ramon/Aktive over email.  Our conversation is below.

Name: My name is Jesse Ramon
Online Name: I am known as Aktive not only online, but everywhere.
Where Do You Live?: I live in Northeast Los Angeles, Cypress Park

Advocacy history: I dont know what kind of history you were referring to, but I am not sure I ever wanted to become a ride leader. I recently reached my one year mark of bicycle riding,.  I think of myself as a newbie, but others beg to differ.  I’m known to be a natural born leader with a gift of communication. I can get my point across in large crowds or one on one, which probably lead to me just jumping into some sort of leadership role as you call it.  Over the last year, people have come up to me to help organize rides and before you knew it I was leading rides, from MOM RIDAZ to some FMLY rides to even LACM rides.  So I guess it just honestly happened without planning! I guess it was natural occurrence. ..something that had to happen...
You mentioned you've only been riding for a year.  What made you start?  You're such a regular on MR message boards and CM discussion, I just assumed you'd been around the block.

Yes, I’ve been riding maybe 14 months now.

What made me start is a long story. About 1 year before I started riding, I bought a cheap ass magna from my uncle.  Shortly after I got it, I had surgery and was basically bed ridden about 3 weeks. With recovery and life happening I totally forgot about the bike…lost the passion one might say.

At the time my pops was working as building maintenance guy and noticed an awesome hybrid bike tied to the banister, after 4 weeks no one touched the bike and he was ordered to cut the chain and get rid of it.  So being the beaners we are, he brought it home.

Automatically I liked it. 21 speeds. disc brakes, front shocks. san marcos saddle. 29inch tires.  I was flying on that.  In the beginning, I thought it was amazing to travel from Highland Park to the fountain at Los Feliz.  As a newbie, that was a mission of its own.  Now I find myself riding out to Orange County or Riverside County from Highland Park.

The rest is living history.

Now that you're a veteran rider, what are your impressions of the group ride scene, both in NELA and throughout the city?

Veteran rider?  Me? Ha Ha…sounds weird.

My impression of group ride scenes is very confusing.  There are times when I  live for the group riding scene.  Whether being MOM RIDAZ or LACM or FMLY or GLOW, they are all fun in their own right.   The social aspect of it. The solidarity amongst ridaz, especially when gear support is requested. The way we look out for each other. Or, just exploring your city with a new group of potential friends.  It’s exciting. Now i find myself organizing MOM/ NELA MOM Ridez, FMLY EASTSIDE rides, and helping steer LACM in a positive direction.  So, I still have the passion for the group rides

But there are a few exceptions out there.  I cannot stand destructive disrespectful rides. Where trash is left all over the route/stops. Rides that don’t do a thing with stealing and vandalism.  There are even rides I’ve seen that lead you into the most dangerous of situations whether be it a bad area to be in or just simply messing with the wrong person.  Granted it may not be the ride itself, just a bunch of knuckleheads out to ruin everyone's night by just fucking up.

That isn’t cool.  When shit like that happens, I tend to drop rides.  If nothing catches my attention on the calendars on numerous sites, I tend to pick up the phone and roll with a small group of ridaz and just ride the night or day away.

NELA is an area rich in culture from all over.  Yet, the biking scene here is very minimal with the exception of the monthly Smoke N’ Art ride.. lol.  I mean Spoke n Art Ride.  The Bike Oven sits right in the middle, and I see the biking scene here slowly but surely growing; which is why I have started the NELA MOM RIDAZ chapter.   Trying to grow here and get this corner of our city bumping with aktivity and life... subsequently helping build the NELA bicycle infrastructure for all of us to enjoy!

This is the same thing happening in all corners of our county. Bikerowave, Bike Kitchen, the Hub and the others popping up irregularly. One day, I see the whole LA scene changing from cars to bikes, just watch!.. We can do it.  Smoke enough hash, and imagine it.  If we all work together, ALL IS POSSIBLE.

Midnight Ridazz profile picture
Midnight Ridazz profile picture

So how did you get involved as a "ride leader" for Critical Mass?  It's sort of an odd match to see a guy with a MOM Ridazz vest standing on the "stage" at Wilshire/Western with Sgt. Krumer.

To be honest, it just happened.  I have been helping keep things in order and what not during LACM, and I am just guessing, but my assertiveness and the manner in which I deal with the public may have lead to that.

Because I really don’t know how I became part of leadership for LACM.   I was already getting ready to end my attendance at LACM due to all the chaos that had been happening.  I wasn’t there for the infamous LACM where the video showed LAPD officer kicking that cyclist of his bike, but shortly after that I started hearing rumors that LAPD would be at the following LACM, so my interest was reignited.

I showed up, and somehow, someway, I was asked to take the lead.  The next month, I showed up right at take off time and Alex Thompson shouts at me, " Yo, aktive, get upfront and lead it again!”  I had actually just met Thompson the previous month when LAPD showed up for the first month to accompany us.

Thompson introduced himself to me and I did the same he complimented the "rapport I have with the cyclist" and "how they really listen to my directions.”  He also informed me of the meetings they had been having with LAPD and what not, told me some new rules I should familiarize myself with like “no more circles of death.”

Before you knew it, month after month, I have been asked either by other leaders or LAPD to just hop in the front and work with the officers like I have been.

And o.m.g.. you are so right about how odd it is to see my MOM RIDAZ PATCH with the big pot leaf in the middle of a briefing of LAPD contingency.

It trips me out, and I love how so many now have convinced themselves that I’m a narc or a cop.. SO NOT TRUE.

At CicLAvia, how did you get the Mayor in the pedicab?

CicLAvia.. that was funny.  Everyone who knows me knows how I really dislike mayor Villababozo.  But when there is a photo-op to take advantage of, I’m there.  LOL

I simply pulled up to him in the peddicab and yelled, "Mayor, hop in! PHOTO-OP!  And once that lime light hog heard "photo-op," he didn’t’ hesitate to jump in for a ride and a chance to be photographed in the cab...

Subsequently people told me that he was enjoying himself until he noticed the huge marijuana leaf in front of him

Ja ha ha.  All of a sudden his expression changed to an "oh shit!" and jumped off. It was quick, but the memories, and photographs will never be lost..'

Our last question is always the same.  If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about transportation in Los Angeles, what would it be?

First off it would be nice for all public transportation services to accommodate bicycles. In Germany the light rail system has a sort of a corral in the front or rear of the train for cyclists to place their bikes in a manner that passengers aren't bothered by bikes nor does it pose a safety issue.

If not that, I'd love to see a state of the art bicycle infrastructure in L.A. County. One where cyclists are away from speeding drivers, Where we have some sort of buffer zone free of hazards such as vehicles pulling out of parking spaces or car doors swinging open to unsuspecting Ridaz. An infrastructure where we'd have a sort of bike way unaffected by intersection or traffic lights and Ridaz could freely ride and not lose momentum or tire out as much due to unnecessary stopping. Sort of a bicycle freeway. Regularly maintained and free of potholes and oil spots usually caused by vehicles and the weight associated with cars n trucks. Also associated with vehicles is debris left behind after accidents such as broken glass and metal or plastic objects that can cause accidents or equipment malfunction.

Hubs where Ridaz can safely lock up their bikes if they needed. And just like the freeways have service patrol tow trucks, we could have a service were technicians can assist stranded cyclists with minor repairs such as flats, snapped brake cables, broken chains ...things of the such. The possibilities are endless for a bicycle  infrastructure ...but first we must adopt a workable and practical bike plan without cutting corners at the expense of Ridaz safety.

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