Chris: Carlos Morales Welcome to SGV Connect
Carlos: Thank you for having me.
Chris: So to start off, let’s do some background. How did you end up covering news?
Carlos: Well, that’s an interesting story.
I had an audio visual production company and I traveled across the states, a lot of events here locally, in the US, and abroad. The schedule was pretty pretty crazy, seven days a week, sometimes long hours.
Working on one show could be setting up, staging for another show; sometimes multiple shows on the same day. Long story short, it was a lot of stress, and the stress was pretty much killing me. I had gained a couple of 100 pounds. Doctor said that I could know a lot of people, and he knew that there was gonna be a lot of people at my funeral. And that’s what really woke me up.
He told me that I needed a shoebox full of medications, counseling regarding my diet, dietin..I had a personal trainer at the time. So I was doing some stuff but it wasn’t it wasn’t enough to create that change.
And basically he said you have to change careers.
And I loved what I did. I was passionate about it. But I didn’t know whether or not it would last., The doctor says, I’m going to teach you a new word in your vocabulary and I and we’re going to practice it because when I was at the doctor’s office, I always had my pagers, cell phones and a laptop. And I was always working. He was he was pissed because I was taking his time and I was still working. I would never stop. And basically the phone rang. I answered.
Oh, and before that he goes, so the word is ‘no.’
And I say, “What do you mean no?”
And he says, Yeah, you’re going to learn how to say “no.” He goes. “if you if you want to if you want to live, you’re going to learn to say no.”
Soon as he said that the phone rings, there was a producer from Channel 34 out of Florida. They wanted me to do a show…to get ready for a show the following week. It’s called a ‘cut caliente’ which means hot and spicy.
And I just looked at him (the doctor).
“I can’t do it.”
And he goes, “What do you mean you can’t do it? You always do our shows.”
And I say, “I can’t I can’t do it.”
And he wanted to know if I was working for the competition or whatever. And basically I told him it was a health thing. He understands, and I told him I will hook you up with another production company, some friends of mine and they’ll they’ll take care of you. They’ll treat you like gold.
And it was after we hung up I just started I just started cry. It was something very hard to do. But doctor does shook his head and he says. “Okay, you get it. You’re on the right path.”
I told the doctor I had one more show to do and it was an El Sereno in Northeast LA. It was a 90th birthday celebration of that town, a town of 50,000 people, working class people and I wanted this show to really be big. So we closed down Huntington Drive. We had fireworks. a couple of stages. For that event, I produced a newspaper which was a mock up paper and I used it as the program of all the events that was going to happen through that three three day period. We sold newspaper ads to the local businesses to pay for this program. And we had community members write stories and we did a lot of research to find what the history of El Sereno was, where we were present and what was the future.
I was pretty surprised how much people were into the stories.
And that was my last show in production. The following week. I just had my staff, we were gonna go clean out our office space and warehouse. And I told the guys I’ll give them letters of recommendation to go get other work.
And so, we finished that weekend and the phones were ringing. People wanted to find out where they could pick up the paper and how long the paper has been around. And I would explain to them that it’s not it wasn’t it wasn’t real. It was something that we made up as a program. And people were shocked.
Then we had some of the people that took advertisements out. They were calling back they wanted to do a year subscription that they wanted to advertise. I told them no we don’t do that. It’s not a you know, it was a one time one time shot.
The following week, one of the guys shows up again and I told him, “I have no work for you. You have to start looking for work.”
And the phones kept ringing ringing, but all the calls were people wanted the newspaper. People wanted to advertise on it. So, one of the guy says, “Why don’t we start the newspaper?”
So I sat back and I thought…the phone rings again and again another newspaper call. I said, “alright guys, let’s do it.” And that’s how we started in the newspaper business. Same day, same day, just on the fly. We decided to do it. The guys we were a great team. And they didn’t want to go anywhere and they liked it and they wanted a new experience.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had no idea at the time. I’ve been in the in the production world for close to 40 years, and I didn’t know what to do. And so I said okay, let’s just do this and see if it pans out.
So it panned out for a couple of years.
Chris: How old are you?
Carlos: I am 62
Chris: Okay, so you had been in production since you were a teenager?
Carlos: Yes. 18 Okay.
Chris: Well, so you got to how you started a newspaper but how did you become a bicycle mounted reporter?
Carlos: Gotcha. Well, what happened was, the doctor said I had to quit my job, find another occupation. And so, I did what he said.
Chris: What did you use to like when you were a kid?
Carlos: So my two sports that I loved were basketball and cycling. And I just said to myself, “Okay, I can’t do basketball. I can’t move around.” At the time I weighed like 400 pounds. So basketball was definitely out of the question. Then I went to go buy a bicycle. I bought it and it was very difficult for me. Going one, one block…going half a mile to a mile. It was very, very difficult.
I asked eight friends of mine if they would help me.
I tell them, “Hey, I need help. I got to lose weight.” I tell them the story what the doctor told me and they said “yeah.”
And we looked at our schedules and the only day that would work was Tuesday nights. And Tuesday nights is how I got on the bicycle. Eventually I was on the bicycle so often and we were doing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays, and more and more. I just used the bicycle to do exercise.
At the time I had a Mustang Ford convertible, and I wasn’t using the Mustang anymore. I was paying insurance for it. And I was putting in 30 Miles 40 Miles on the bike and still be able to function. I will be still be able to come home after doing the ride and actually be productive: cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, just that with a lot of energy. I decided to go carfree.
In the meantime, I was doing all my sales and going to look for advertisement for the newspaper. I was going on my bicycle. I would show up and the customers would be surprised that I was on the bicycle coming in and selling them newspaper ads. And then at the same time we I started going to incidents, shootings, fires, car accidents, murders, stabbings, assaults, just about everything on my bike.
We decided to expand the newspaper coverage not only to El Sereno, but to the LAPD Hollenback Division which encompasses El Sereno Lincoln Heights, and Highland Park Park, little bit of Highland Park, Eagle Rock, and Boyle Height. And also we followed the Fire Department division that also almost shadowed the LAPD.
So my coverage were those communities. Most of the time, I get to a story on my bicycle faster than the major networks channel, because they’re coming out of Hollywood, or the valley, and I was this was happening in my backyard. So I would show up to a lot of the crime scenes and stuff on my bicycle faster than they could dispatch a new screw out there. That’s how I got started.
Chris: So what were the things that first struck you about the new craft of reporting for you?
Carlos: Everything that I’ve learned in grammar school, middle school, high school, some college didn’t didn’t prepare me for the truth, for the corruption for things that happen in our in our city in our towns and across America. Not just in in Northeast LA, but I found out that this was true across the country.
And it was enlightening.
It was disappointing.
And it was just dumb. I didn’t go looking for the corruption, that kind of fell on me. People trusted me. Or we I should say. We gained their trust based on what we were reporting. Our publication focused on public safety and political corruption. That’s what it came came out to.
And we were talking about things that other news agencies were not talking about. And the people in the community loved it because it was local. It was about home. When you turn on the TV or you read the newspaper, you would see stuff outside of our community. There wasn’t very many news agencies concentrated in northeast L.A. news. So we would be reporting about the small fire around the block or traffic collisions. And people gravitated to it because they knew these people, they were people from the area that were being affected.
And then on some of the crime. It was happening in their backyard and affected them. So, we would give lot of tips on how to protect themselves how to be vigilant. We just gained the trust so much that sometimes when people would see something go down, they would text me…or yeah, they would send me…I had a pager. And I had a cell phone.
People would have been texting me before they would even call 911 and that was pretty amazing. We really gained the trust.
I remember a time I was meeting with a sergeant and the senior lead officers at the Hollenbeck station in Boyle Heights. I think we’re gonna plan plan out the the staging of an event. I don’t even know what the event was, but all of a sudden I get a text. I’m surrounded by all the senior leads.
I looked down, I see what it was, and then I said “Guys, I gotta go, I’ll be back.” And I got on my bike and I took off like a bat out of hell. There was a shooting in an alley, about six six blocks away from the police station. So I got to the scene, got to the alley.
There was a guy on the floor. I took my picture, started talking to some witnesses, and then I could hear the sirens coming. So I just tried to take all my all my pictures. And then when some of the senior leads that I was in a meeting with previously a couple of minutes ago, asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming down? How come you didn’t tell me about the shooting?”
I said, “Because you wouldn’t let me take any shots and I wouldn’t be able to get into the scene and do what I do and interview. You guys would have held me back. They were a little bit pissed. But they understood, and we had a mutual respect.
That actually came over time. I say that because when I started the newspaper and they would see me trying to take pictures trying to ask questions. They were asking, “Who are you? What do you know? What are you You know, what are you doing?”
I told them, “I was a reporter for the Voice Community News. And they would literally laugh at me. They wouldn’t let me. They said sure. Sure you are.” And they didn’t take me serious and so I was there before any any of the major news stations.
The new stations get in, the camera guys come out, and they let them underneath the yellow caution tape, and they would hold hold me back.
Because I covered the same area. I was always come across the same police officers, no matter which shift. Also the same firemen. So they started seeing me all the time.
One time, there was a big crash. It was a shooting that caused the crash. I was first on scene and basically the police officer didn’t let me go in.
I told them, “Hey, this is this is the paper.” I even had copies of the paper. I had my business card, the press credential, and they still didn’t let me in.
After he says,”You know, no reporter is going to be around on a bicycle. So you’re going to get in a news van.”
I really felt angry that they didn’t take my profession seriously because, only because, I was on a bicycle. The way I turned that around, I talked to the police officer and I call them over. And I said, “So you know you guys have the police academy. And you guys have a section of the police academy where your bicycle officers get trained to do their job on a bicycle. Isn’t that right?”
And he goes, “Yeah.”
“So he’s a sworn officer so as soon as he gets on a bike, he magically loses his professional training that he’s had before because he’s on a bicycle?”
And he thought about it and then he just lifted the yellow tape and let me in.
And that’s what I went back to the police station that week and talked I had a meeting with the captain and I told them, “You know what I was doing,” and basically told them to let everybody know this is what I do.
Chris: There’s still bicycle mounted reporters now writing for smaller publications. In your estimation, in the last few years, has the treatment of of the press by Los Angeles city and county policing agencies changed in any way or is it the same as it ever was?
Carlos: That’s a great question, Chris.
I would say it has it has improved for a lot of times, but there’s a lot of agencies in smaller cities that still don’t accept it. When I talk to other reporters and tell them I tell them the story. So if a police officer is on a bike, he’s not a professional, and some of them have used that to open the doors. But yeah, it’s it’s it’s tough, but it is better.
Chris: As the editor of The Voice you were…I want to say…pretty freewheeling with opinions. It wasn’t always clear whether, you know, something was in some way meant as a column. If we’re talking about a crime scene, those articles don’t tend to be as opinionated. But was that a conscious decision to present in that voice?
Carlos: Yes, it was. I know it’s it’s taboo in in reporting, you’re not supposed to put your emotions into it. You’re not supposed to put your opinions into it. It’s just just a fact.
All the news that was coming up, it was it always favored the politicians. And I knew that the that the corruption was there. That is how I became very opinionated in the publication. That could have been a drawback but it also could have been what made it successful.
I had the the facts, F A C T S.
I had the facts along with the fax.
When we were reporting we had fax machines out there.
So, I had a lot of people, insiders from City Hall, from the mayor’s office, different Councilman L.A. County Supervisors. We had people up in Sacramento. We had people in the jail, in the jail system. We had Sheriffs, CHPs and people in the fire department within these divisions, or different government departments that trusted me.
They would send me the faxes over of what was going on. Behind closed doors and meetings, so when I would talk to the politicians, I would ask them these questions and they would just lie to me. And it was just that that was the eye opening.
When I talked about how it was an eye opener and how I was disappointed talking to various politicians in in the city and the county, even on the state level and you having what the information in your in your hand. I had it in my messenger bag and ask them the questions and they will straight out lie to you. And that’s what that’s when I said, I can’t let that go go by.
So a lot of my opinionated comments were followed up with facts. And I was the first publication not only to write about it, but people in the community or some of their political enablers amongst all the different departments would say that it’s not true. Then I started printing the actual facts on the front page of the paper.
And this blew up.
I worked with in collaboration with a couple of blogs and nobody knew this before but I’m will say it now. There’s a ‘Mayor Sam’ blog that every city official department, every county official, every county department and up to the state level. They would pay attention to what was said on Mayor Sam. I was a very small contributor to that blog, but it was just blowing up from hundreds to 1000s to 10,000s of us. Every Monday, people would come back to see, everybody that worked in government would come back to see what was being said on Mayor Sam. We would time the things that we would put out all the stuff out there. f
It was so popular that even at the time, new stations would wouldn’t consider blogs newsworthy or trustworthy. We were out there taking cell phones had just come out with the video cameras and it was grainy it was ugly. And we were putting that out on the Mayor Sam blog.
They (news stations) were all starting to capture what we were saying and then they would open up their investigations and bang it was blowing up. A couple of times some of the bloggers they even interviewed as the guys who broke the story. So,we were working on it as team. There were several of us. Many do not still don’t don’t want to put their name out there. Several of us have but actually it was an anonymous blog.
Yeah, it was an anonymous blog. I would put my name to it. There were other guys who wouldn’t. However, it was tough to decipher what was true and what was you know, what was factual and what was made up.
But everything that I put on my name, my name was on it. I wasn’t hiding the other guys. Some of the other guys why they didn’t put their name on it because they work with the city departments. So they were bringing inside information from within the city departments and putting out there. If they would put it out there they would get fired. And that’s pretty much the reason why they would use an anonymous name.
Even today, when I say something I make sure before I put it out. I gotta make sure that I have the proof so that way people believe it.
Chris: Was it nerve wracking to cover investigative or controversial stories when you were bike mounted? Would you say you felt more exposed?
Carlos: Yeah, there was a time where some of the stories we were working on, it was very dangerous for me to be in that environment. Always looking around me, really looking to see if somebody was gonna hit me purposely and put me in the hospital. Got a lot of threats. For sure.
There was an agency it was the State Department of Corrections up in Sacramento. We were writing about the pedophile parolee housing.
Chris: Yeah, housing in El Sereno. You wrote a story about clustered residences of sex offenders in El Sereno that weren’t in compliance with Jessica’s Law.
Carlos: Correct. That was really really breaking at the time. I’m trying to remember this guy from Channel 2 is a well known reporter, he does investigative reporting.
We broke this story. And then it was big, where we found clusters of 47 sex offenders living in a complex in apartment complex next to families: next to little girls, little boys.
I actually went in asked, “Subsidized rent, correct?” Yes, subsidized rent.
One of the things that we went in, we got into the complex, we didn’t have a car, we waited for somebody to open. I went to the manager’s office, videotaping everything and just confronted them. “Hey, why are you? Why are you hiding the sex offenders here?”
And it was bad. That guy made a phone call.
All of a sudden. six guys came out of hiding and they were very threatening. That time, I didn’t go on a bicycle because I honestly didn’t know if I was gonna get out.
I actually went in with three of my friends to do that story. And after that, after we got out of that, as residents were coming in, we started to interview people and letting them know. “Hey, did you know that these registered sex offenders are within the complex?”
When we went in, we were taking pictures of the pool area of the different commune areas and yeah, we seen guys there with with families. We didn’t put their faces because we don’t know if that person was the offender or not. But yeah, I mean, we seen it with our with our own eyes, and it was pretty, pretty creepy. That really blew up and then we put a lot of pressure on city, state and county levels to get attention to it eventually. All the press was all over it. That was yeah, that was one of the scary ones.
Chris: So in your coverage, it’s obvious that you have fairly good rapport with law enforcement and I was wondering, what do you have to say to your friends from that time regarding the LA Times study that the sheriff’s disproportionately bike stop Latinos? Something like seven out of 10 bike stops affected by county sheriff’s tallied were affecting Latinos and especially Latino men?
Carlos: Yes, correct. Correct. Yeah, it was pretty disturbing.
A lot of us in the bike culture, were talking about it. And I got a lot of phone calls about that. Prior to having the having the newspaper, I started the Eastside Bike Club. We would go out it’ll be 20-30 or 40-50 people on a Tuesday night, the ones that were trying to help me lose weigh.
We would go out riding and our rides will be getting longer. We were going into Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Downtown LA, East LA, just different areas out in the San Gabriel Valley.
One time in particular, we were in Downtown Los Angeles and there was about 20 of us and we were going down Los Angeles Street going southbound. A patrol officer was going northbound.
They were just looking at us and they seen one of one of the riders that happened to be bald at the time. This guy this police officer looks at us turns around and they sit and the any he blows the horn lights it up and the guy says what do we do so well let’s find out what he needs.
And that officer just went into he went at targeting one individual that had a shaved head. His name is Mannym a friend of mine. And they said that he blew through the red light.
And then I said, “Wait a minute, that’s impossible. He was in the middle of the pack.”
And we went, “Why are you picking on him? We all get a ticket or we don’t get a ticket.” Because how could somebody in the middle of the pack be and then everybody behind them not be targeted?
They told him to take off his helmet. Then they were looking for tattoos.
And then after I said, “If you’re gonna give them a ticket, give them a ticket. You give all of us a ticket or none of us a ticket.” And they told us to step back and everybody stood back and I was trying to reason with the with the police officer at the time.
One of the things that we haven’t talked about, I was recruited by Chief Bratton. LAPD Chief Bratton at the time. There was a lot of problems with cyclist and LAPD. And I was recruited to become one of nine civilians to form the LAPD Bike Task Force. And I represented the Northeast LA. There were people from South Bay, the Valley and what have you,.
The cop was just really badgering Manny. And basically I just got on the phone and talk to the watch commander. I told them we needed a supervisor over here, this guy’s doing stuff wrong. And then I identified myself a member of the LAPD Bike Task Force.
Right away, they came down. In that interim, they were asking Manny for his ID.
A lot of us they would drive to my office (before the ride) and leave their cars there. So he didn’t have his driver’s license. And then they asked him what he did and he says he’s a rocket. Scientist at at JPL. And the cops were just pissed.
They just couldn’t believe it that they couldn’t hit you know, many didn’t have any tattoos…any gang affiliation.
Yeah, he had a shaved head. And he wasn’t Latino. He was brown, but it doesn’t make him a gang member. And man, he was telling the truth. He is a rocket scientist at at JPL. He’s an engineer over there. And finally, the the supervisor came on and they talk to their people. And then they came to me and I told them, hey, this guy was in the middle of the pack. You give all of us a ticket or let us go.
Eventually they let us go.
Chris: So when it comes to coming back to your answer, is there any harassment for brown and black people?
Carols: I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve seen it in South Pasadena. I’ve seen it in Alhambra. nce in in Temple City with the sheriff’s. Does it exist? Yes, it yes it does.
Chris: But maintaining that relationship as you’ve had with law enforcement, what would you say to law enforcement about this harassment?
Carlos: I come back to that analogy. Because the sheriff’s also have the bike units and other small cities. Some of them do a lot of them don’t. But I tell them just because a sworn officer gets on a bike it doesn’t it doesn’t take away your professional training. Because there’s a lot of Latinos on a on a bike, it doesn’t mean that we’re out doing something bad in the community.
We’re just trying to have a good time and get some exercise.
Chris: At the Eastside Bike Club, it eventually grew a very big membership, but can you give a sense of who was joining the club?
Carlos: Yeah. Actually, it was it was amazing. So most of the people were working working class. We had entire families we had fathers grandfathers, grandkids. We had moms, aunts, cousins, etc.
There were no other Bicycle Club per se, in Northeast LA. And definitely not clubs that were family oriented. They were more of racing, more athletic types. And they wouldn’t be wearing their cycling jerseys and lycra shorts. and they were clipped in we were just people from the neighborhood and all types of bikes.
There were beach cruisers, BMX bikes, hybrids, road bikes. That’s what made our group different. And I think that was the attraction of why it grew so so quick, over the years.
We started in 2008. Let me do my math, right. That’s 14 years. So I could go, when I do get on my bike, I could go to the San Fernando Valley, I could go to the South Bay, to the Westside, downtown. And chances are people are gonna recognize me. They’re gonna say, “Hey, Carlos.” or they’re gonna say “Stan’s Bike Shop”, or they’re gonna say just gonna yell “Eastside”.
So it’s funny, no matter where we go in the city we will run into people. It’s pretty neat.
The club still exists, but because of COVIDm We haven’t done any rides. Even after I moved to Azusa, the rides, we’re still continuing on on Tuesday nights, thanks to a friend, Nick Rodriguez.
When COVID hit, nobody could get in groups and stuff like that. So we never regrouped as, as a regular thing.
But when we have special occasion rides, where we’re going to go into Dodger Stadium we have a Dodgertown ride, we have our annual taco ride, and other we have our Halloween rides…you know different things like that people do show up.
Chris: So why start a bike shop out here in the SGV, in in your hometown Azusa?
Carlos: Great question.
When I decided I was riding my bike so often working with the with the newspaper, I went carfree. I became just a recreational cyclist, to a bicycle advocate, and now I’m a bike shop owner. And it wasn’t it wasn’t in the plan.
I didn’t have a career per se just the newspaper. But more and more. I found myself in circles with cyclists and I really was passionate about it. And when I started looking for a bike shop to open up I did go into Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, East LA and I just didn’t find that spot.
One day, I met Stan Stan Pitts during one of our weekend rides and he had said he owns Stan’s Bike Shop. He called me one day and he says Carlos Why don’t you bring your group down here? I’m selling my shop and going to I’ll give you guys a pretty good discount on anything you want before I sell the shop.
He had no idea that it was already in my head to buy a shop. So I went with a friend, a neighbor of mine, we went to go see him. he looked he goes, “Where’s everybody at?”
“Oh no, it was just me and me and my partner here. We’re interested in buying your shop.”
And he says all right and after I asked him what he you know, what do you he asked me what what my budget was, you know what I plan on investing? I told him what it was and he chuckled and he says “no.” The shop was worth a lot more than that.
So I said okay, no worries. I said I’ll bring my group in the following week. We’ll come and do some shopping and stuff. So we talked for another 20 minutes. And then as before we departed, he put his hand on my shoulder. And he whispered in my ear, I’m going to sell you the shop.
And I said no. I said no way. I can’t afford it. There’s no way. He says, “No, I’m going to sell it to you at the price at your budget. Whatever that budget was.” My partner, my neighbor says what’s going on? He goes he said he’s gonna sell us the shop. He goes oh no, we can’t afford it.
And then Stan says, “No, I’m gonna sell it. You know, Carlos, I got three other offers, and I was gonna make up my decision this week.”
He reached into the back of his desk, brought out a suitcase, opened up the suitcase and he had three proposals. He showed me each proposal. And the first one that he showed me was way over what I had offered. Then the second one was more and then the third one was even more than that. So why are you doing this? Why? You know, why don’t you take that money?
And he goes, “Carlos these guys are all millionaires. These guys these guys. They’re gonna use the shop as a tax write off. And he goes I seen what you do in Northeast LA. I want you to do it here. I know you’re doing it for the people and not as a tax write off that these guys are doing that as a hobby. You’re gonna make more of an impact in the cycling community in the future than what those guys ever will.”
And that’s how I became the owner of so at the time it was called Stan’s Monrovia Bicycles, and it catered to a lot of people in the San Gabriel Valley. I wanted to do more. I wanted to honor Stan and keep the name because he did a real good deed to me.
So I kept it Stan’s…just Stan’s Bike Shop. I didn’t pigeonhole it to just the city of Monrovia because I had bigger aspirations and then just one little town.
Five years later, I moved to here…Azusa. The reason I made the move is to get next to the Metro Goldline Station. Of all the bike shops across the county of LA I still believe that I’m the closest one to a Metro station: 200 feet south of the of the station. And that move has been pretty good for us.
Chris: So what bike or transit projects are you excited about in the SGV?
Carlos: Great question. Right now. The City of Azusa is working on making the city more walkable. I tried to make it more bikable but that wasn’t in their in the funding at the time. City of Alhambra and South Alhambra have made some big strides. Pasadena has made amazing strides.
One of the things that we’ve been dealing with for quite a long time is the City of San Marino. They don’t have any bicycle infrastructure. It’ll be the perfect city for them to put in bike lanes.
They have four or five lanes going in each direction on Huntington Drive and it’s a natural gauntlet to go from Downtown LA out into the San Gabriel Valley. And yet they’ve been very hesitant of doing that.
I did stage a protest ride in City of San Marino with the Eastside Bike Club and my bike shop. It was one of many protest rides. They were calling us riffraff and I traveled from East LA from oEl Sereno to Monrovia I would ride my bike seven days a week. I would go to the city of San Marino. And I think the last straw of why I decided to do the protest is they say that the cyclists coming, the riff raff cyclists coming into our community next if we let that happen.
The next thing you know they’re gonna be bathing in our fountains in our front yards.
And I said, “Okay, that’s it. You drew the line. It’s on.” So we organized a protest. Right? A couple of 100 people showed up. It was fun. It was exciting. We got a lot of news coverage.
And we set the tone that we were no longer going to be considered second class citizens because magically we’re on a bicycle. There’s law enforcement officers. There’s doctors, nurses, engineers, draftsman. There’s a tons of people that ride a bicycle.
I go back to the analogy since you get on a bicycle you can’t be you can’t be held as a professional that people respect. There’s attorneys that ride, so that was our point. And it was fun.
Chris: So putting your editors hat back on here, back to VCN. Voice Community News’ coverage area was greater Northeast LA more or less with a few adjacent neighborhoods. We’d sometimes talk about Alhambra. Then you were calling for greater investment in the area, particularly El Sereno.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight. What do you think the result has been? Do you think that there’s been good investment? Do you think that it’s not been good investment?
Carlos: I think that it hasn’t been as good as it can be.
Here’s an interesting story. So councilman, Jose Huizar, our CD 14…
Chris: God, rest his soul.
Carlos: We’ve…I’ve worked with him, good and bad. Lately, more of the bad when I started finding the corruption that he was doing.
So I was with the politician. Every time I had the opportunity I would, I would bring stuff up. And in a casual conversation. It wasn’t in a meeting.
He says, “Hey, Carlos, why don’t you just come come down about this? We’re going to put bike lanes on Huntington. You’re gonna you’re gonna get your bike lanes.”
So he wanted me to back off. Again. This wasn’t this wasn’t a formal meeting. It was just in casual conversation, but he did imply for me to back off of what he was doing in exchange for the bike lanes.
And I just told them, “You know what? bike lanes that ain’t gonna stop what you’re doing. I cannot ignore what you’re doing because you’re doing the bike lanes.”
That being said, I have several friends that actually use that bike lane to commute through El Sereno into Downtown LA.
Now Kevin, de Leon is the next councilman. He set up a couple of public meetings to talk about bicycle infrastructure, making that community more walkable, bikable the streets, etc. They’re talking about Eastern Avenue and Valley Boulevard. So there is stuff in the works, but it’s gonna be years from now.
Chris: Yeah, it’s such a busy intersection. So this last question. What do you make of LA City Council’s ordinance banning bike repair work on city streets? You read this story?
Carlos: Yes, I did. Yes, I did.
I’ll just tell you, there’s a lot of people that are that are homeless that are in the street, and they use their bicycle to get around. Sometimes they can’t afford or I should say oftentimes they can’t afford to come into a shop like mine or any of the shops in the in the city or in the San Gabriel Valley. We do charge. We have to keep the lights on…people employed. It does cost us to do that. So I understand that.
When there’s a homeless person that comes around and they need parts. We do have used tubes. Sometimes I give it to him, sometimes I sell it to him for very, very cheap. Or if they’ll ask for one, I might give them two or three of them.
So we do help out in that respect.
Bike theft is out of control not only in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles, California but across the country. And now with E-Bikes coming on board, it’s just crazy. It’s out of control.
There is no infrastructure where people could report a stolen bike. You could go from every city and every single law enforcement agency has different policies. Some of them don’t even report report a bike.
The facts are most people that own a bike..hey don’t have the serial number. They don’t have pictures of their bike. They don’t have identifying pieces to help them to identify it’s their bike.
So there’s people on the street, there is a bad element. Some of them are opportunists, and they’re part of the problem that are taking bikes from innocent people. And you see a lot of chop shops out there.
However, not all of these chop shops. They’re not stolen bikes. There’s people that collect metal. And a lot of the metal are bikes that people throw.
This lady just brought me three bikes that she wanted to fix and the money she was going to put into it. I told her, “I wouldn’t even invest it.”
She goes, what do you what would you do with that? I said, I’m gonna make it into a ghost bike. We’re going to paint it white. When somebody dies on the street. We’re going to hang it because these bikes are not worth investing the money.
There’s a lot us just like this lady. There’s a lot of families that are throwing out bikes and they put them out. And then you got these guys who go around collecting metal. And there’s families that go collect bikes, and they and they repair them and that’s how they make their extra money. Yeah, they have yard sales every week.
When I had the Eastside Bike Club go in Lincoln Heights, there was a family guy that would put out on an empty lot. He would put out tarps and he had a lot of bike parts on it and his family was there, his wife, his kids, and him and they were there. And as as we were going through our rides, we knew he was there. We would stop the group would stop there and try to support him. Because he was supporting his family. And at the time we would find him bargains. And you look at the guy and you see him and his family. This guy’s not stealing stuff. He was one of the guys going around.
On Mondays, when people would take out the trash they would put the bikes he would collect. He’s a self taught bike mechanic. I want to fast forward now. He owns a bike shop in Lincoln Heights.
So here’s a great example of somebody fixing bikes on the street literally on the sidewalk on an empty lot every weekend. He would set up and now he’s a bike shop owner in Lincoln Heights.
It’s Ricky’s Bike shop on Daily Avenue. And guess what? His family is still there working on bikes because of the bike shop. He’s putting his kids to college now. So I mean, here’s the flip. side of the coin.
Not everybody that is set up on the street is there for the bad element. I gave you a great example of not a chop shop but as a guy setting up but he’s just providing for his family.
Chris: Carlos thanks so much for coming on SGV Connect.
Carlos: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate you