Meet ‘Bike LA’: the Advocacy Group Formerly Known as the L.A. County Bike Coalition

A half-dozen questions with Bike LA Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman

Unveiling of the new 'Bike LA' moniker at Bike Fest. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog
Unveiling of the new 'Bike LA' moniker at Bike Fest. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

At its Bike Fest celebration last Saturday, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition formally came out with their new name: “Bike LA.” Streetsblog caught up with the organization’s Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman to better understand the latest rebranding, and more about what else is happening at Bike LA.

The interview was conducted over email today. SBLA added a couple of links to earlier coverage.

Streetsblog: Tell SBLA readers about the name change: why Bike LA?

Eli Akira Kaufman: Our aim for the past quarter century has been to transform our transportation culture and infrastructure from the burden we all suffer to a benefit we all share – by advocating for a region that is safe, equitable, and joyous to bicycle.

Our staff and board of directors felt that the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) really did not capture who we are and our mission to support more Angelenos to Bike LA. Basically, the thinking is that LACBC sounds too much like the government agencies we work with (LADOT, LAUSD, LADWP) when we’re actually a community-based nonprofit organization committed to advocating for the rights of cyclists. It had become clear that we needed a name change that made it easier for bike-minded people to find and support our advocacy work much like our sister bike nonprofits Bike East Bay, Bike New York, Bike Austin, Bike Cleveland, Bike Portland, Bike Houston to name a few.

Bike LA is both more accessible and a call to action. We thank everyone for supporting LACBC for the past quarter century and for remaining committed to Bike LA for a Better LA!

What issues have been big at the coalition, now Bike LA, over the past year?

L.A. City leaders have promised healthy streets rooted in equity for years. Bike LA is committed to making sure they come through with that promise. Every 30 hours an Angeleno is killed in a car crash. Cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders bear the brunt of traffic deaths and a lack of dignified transportation options. The city leaders must do a better job of delivering safe, equitable, and sustainable streets and sidewalks no matter the zip code.

On August 24, 2022, the Los Angeles City Council voted to push the Healthy Streets Ballot measure to a 2024 public vote. While we are encouraged by the public interest that Bike LA helped to galvanize in support of this measure, the bold statements made by nearly all the City Councilmembers that promised the City would follow through with their Vision Zero commitments have yet to materialize.

We are at a watershed moment. A new Mayor will have been elected on November 8, 2022, along with a number of new City Councilmembers – many of whom have made commitments to deliver safe, equitable, and sustainable streets – and we will continue to cultivate the partnerships vital to remove the barriers to Bike LA safely and with dignity.

What’s coming up for Bike LA in the year ahead?

Los Angeles is ranked in the lower half of large cities for biking (47 out of 85 large cities, People for Bikes) and only 3 percent of the city’s Mobility Plan has been implemented in 7 years. But we remain optimistic because people are beginning to organize and support a more bikable LA, as demonstrated by the 100,000 signatures gathered to support the Healthy Streets Ballot Measure, partial closure of Griffith Park to vehicles thanks to our collaboration with transportation justice CBOs [community-based organizations], City Councilmember Nithya Raman of Council District 4, and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and recent endorsement of Sunset4All campaign in CD13.

With a new name, Bike LA, and a committed board and staff, we will further the cause of a safer, more bike-friendly L.A. 2023 will be a year of refining our messaging, attracting supporters who want to make streets safer for cyclists, and advocating for bike infrastructure.

What do you see as the biggest obstacles for bicycling in Southern California?

The biggest obstacle to Bike LA is the lack of infrastructure that supports the lives of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. Los Angeles is one of the most diverse regions in the world, providing untold cultural richness and creative inspiration for the county’s ten million residents. However, L.A. also suffers from vast economic and environmental challenges. Transportation plays a significant role in creating and perpetuating these challenges which creates a drag on the prosperity of our entire region. The lack of investment in safe and accessible networks for walking and biking is particularly acute in low-income communities, which have the highest rates of traffic injuries and fatalities.

Bike LA recognizes our role in shaping regional policy to address these disparities and advocates for intentional programs and bike infrastructure to address these inequities, but it is going to take some meaningful systemic changes such as:

  • prioritizing communities of need first for street updates and repairs leveraging resources like racial and socio-economic data,
  • making dignified transportation options a citywide effort, not of one agency. That means having a functioning cross-departmental approach with central, clear decision-making that is held accountable.
  • recognizing community transportation needs and street design is always evolving we need a city responsive to those changes. L.A.’s Mobility Plan must be regularly updated through an equitable, transparent, and accountable process.

How can folks get involved with Bike LA?

Go to https://www.la-bike.org/ to learn more about our advocacy, education, and outreach. To get involved in local bike advocacy check out our Local Chapters to see if there is a group organized in your neighborhood. If you don’t see a group in your area reach out to info@LA-Bike.org to find out how we can support the organization of a new chapter that serves your local needs as a cyclist!

Anything that SBLA didn’t ask that you’d like to get the word out on?

Just a quick note to be patient with us as we move through the process of refreshing our branding heading into 2023!

Bike LA Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman speaking at Bike Fest 2022
Bike LA Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman speaking at Bike Fest 2022

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