Now retired, he is busier than ever with volunteer advocacy work for North East Los Angeles Bikes (NELA Bikes!) and Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (CICLE.org) in Pasadena. But the Bike Oven, just down the hill from his Montecito Heights home, is where he spends much of his time, helping with outreach and educational programs that go beyond just bikes. One of their more recent efforts provided a delivery bike for a South-Central Los Angeles food co-op.
At the other end of the age spectrum is 24-year-old Dorothy Kieu Le, who works as Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, (LACBC) founded by Linton and Milam when Le was barely past kindergarten.
She grew up in Manhattan Beach, a charming beachside town with plenty of cycling. Although a former boyfriend nagged her into getting a car, claiming she “couldn’t appear mature” without one, she rarely drives it, preferring her bike, or Los Angeles’ rapidly-improving Metro system. Her second year at UCLA brought her back into the cycling fold when she chanced upon the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride. She realized that “if I could do it in a group, I could do it alone.” That led her into on-campus bicycle advocacy and the position at LACBC.
Her first project at the Coalition was in support of better cyclist and pedestrian access to Metro stations. Her big push now is to get funds from Measure R, a tiny boost in the local sales tax dedicated to “traffic relief and transportation upgrades,” allocated to bicycle projects. LACBC feels that a sliver of the $40 billion to be allocated would go a long way towards providing attractive and effective bicycle infrastructure to the cities of Los Angeles County.
Another important LACBC function in which Le is involved is “City of Lights,” an outreach program in English and Spanish trying to help the area’s vast number of Latino cyclists upgrade their bikes to street safety standards, primarily through providing lights for night and early-morning riding, as well as brochures and workshops in safe riding. Thanks in part to LACBC’s attentions, traffic deaths of cycling immigrant workers are no longer routinely ignored by the LAPD and these riders are being drawn in to the cycling community, and hence into the city as a whole.
That’s the recent past. What Le hopes to see in the near future includes the “road diets” Linton also spoke of: the reallocation of space from cars to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as an expansion of Los Angeles’ city council and county board of supervisors to ensure that neighborhoods have more say in what happens to them.
Getting it done – without waiting for the powers-that-be to help – is what James Spooner, 33, and Pedro Balugo, 41, are all about. Both are biracial punk-rockers who drift among more different worlds than most people know exist in Los Angeles.
Spooner is the producer of Afro-Punk concerts and documentary film and one of his many goals is to open the local black community’s eyes to the possibilities available to them in this city, which was once considered the most segregated metropolis in the US. “I know from experience,” Spooner, said, that “Black folk don’t feel included in ‘open’ invitations,” so he began producing black-specific events that he says help people of color believe that worlds often thought of as “white,” such as punk rock – or bicycling – are for them as well.
Black folk need a “place to relax, a ‘safe space’ where they can be themselves,” and Spooner, remembering the intense feeling of freedom of his own first bike ride, wanted cycling to be one of those safe spaces. After a chance meeting with the black owners of Bikestyler Customs in Hollywood, Spooner started “Black Kids on Bikes” (which is not limited to kids or black folk) and began organizing the “Freedom Rides” under its aegis.
As Balugo says, “Kids” refers to their feeling “kind of like unsupervised grown-up teenagers,” but the rides tend to be mannerly and oriented to community-building among participants. Balugo heard of the Freedom Ride through Afro-Punk but was wary of joining in as he had a white girlfriend at the time. He asked Spooner if he could bring her, and the answer was, “Why would it matter?” Balugo adds, “There’s no hidden agenda; we’re just out to ride and have fun. It’s a bike ride. Simple as that.” Anyone who shows up can ride.
Many of those who do show up haven’t been on a bike for fifteen years or more. Spooner keeps a couple of “invitation bikes” that curious but wheel-less riders can borrow. So far, every rider who has borrowed one has ended up buying their own bike, and two of them are now riding to work every day!