L.A. is known for Hollywood, for its sprawling suburbs and for those jam-packed freeways. It is not known for its cycling-friendly culture. That’s because until very recently L.A. was not a safe place for cyclists to ride. It can’t really be called safe now either, but the difference is that L.A. is changing. The story of L.A.’s journey to becoming one of the U.S.’s most bike-friendly cities is one for the record books.
According to the Los Angeles Times “On July 17, 2010, after a P90X workout, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his police bodyguard began riding mountain bikes west in the bike lane on Venice Boulevard. About 6:30 p.m., heading toward La Cienega Boulevard, they were cut off by a taxi cab. Villaraigosa flipped over the handlebars. His elbow shattered on the asphalt.” His accident, along with his trip to Copenhagen (what may be the most biyclce-friendly city in the entire world), and his trip to Mexico City where he saw a Ciclovia event, the Mayor became a cycling advocate.
And it’s amazing (and often-times discouraging) the affect one person can have. With the Mayor’s support, the cycling culture in L.A. has been completely transformed.Projects and ideas that cycling advocates have been supporting for years are finally gaining some traction. 1,680 miles of bikeway are to be implemented over the next 30 years. L.A. is now the home to the biggest cycling event in the U.S., CicLAvia; and we have already written a post or two about L.A.’s new bike rental program. These changes have really had an effect. For the first time, L.A. has been recognized as a Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
And all of this because a major public official put their weight behind cycling. Villaraigosa leaves office in June. Bike advocates in L.A. can only hope (and vote) for the next Mayor to be just as or more cycling-friendly.