Would you like to ride your bike more but feel intimidated by the dangers of riding through city streets? Try joining an outing sponsored by a bicycling organization. It’s safer to be in a group and you will learn how to ride safer on your own.
It had been a long time since I’d ridden my bike. But when I received an email inviting me to join an Urban Expedition exploring Highland Park by bike, I thought why not? It was only 7 miles and promised to visit some interesting sights, so what better way to ease back into cycling, have some fun and learn something?
From their website, www.cicle.org: Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.) is a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles working to promote the bicycle as a viable, healthy, and sustainable transportation choice.
The Urban Expedition happens about once a month. There were at least 30 riders on this trip, several of whom were volunteers with bright yellow vests who helped guide and keep everyone safe. We met near the Arroyo Seco Stables and rode up the bike path in the LA River to the Audubon Center in Debs Park. Did you know that Debs Park is the 4th largest park in the city of Los Angeles? It has over 150 acres of largely wild hillsides with mostly native plants to hike and explore. The Audubon Center was opened in Debs Park in 2003, and was instrumental in making the park safer and more accessible to families and individuals.
Did you know that the Audubon Center is the first LEED-certified building in the country? (LEED = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The director of the Audubon Center, Jeff Chapman, told us about the site and then led us on a hike on the butterfly nature trail.
Jeff is a regular participant on these urban bicycle adventures and he rides his bike to work from his home in Eagle Rock. The Audubon Center is a very kid-friendly place, offering lots of fun ways for kids to learn about and play in nature. For adults, there is a Solar System Hands-on Training for Maintenance & Design class that meets the 3rd Saturday of each month. For $20 per class, you can learn how to better understand solar systems for your own use or even to work in the field. For all ages, they offer a free Friday film night preceded by a bird walk. Check out all the possibilities at http://ca.audubon.org/debs_park.php.
We rode on to the Milagro Allegro Community Garden (www.hpgarden.org), a project comprising 32 garden plots, monthly educational classes and workshops on gardening and other topics, and an after-school nutrition, cooking and gardening program (“LA Sprouts”) for elementary school students aimed at promoting healthy eating habits. Check out their website to read about the history of how the garden was acquired, named and constructed, all good stories.
What I love about this garden is that it is yet another example of the population of individuals in Highland Park who think for themselves to find ways to make their community better for everyone. In this case, they saw a way to make a community garden out of a city-owned vacant lot that was slated for public parking in a neighborhood where there was already plenty of parking.
We cycled on to Cafe de la Leche, a coffee house in Highland Park that features the first bike corral installed by the City of Los Angeles. The owners of this popular spot are living the urban localism dream, in my opinion. Matt and Anya Schodorf live and ride their bikes in Highland Park, saw a need for a good local coffee spot and have very successfully opened one. But they went further: they recently opened Schodorf’s Luncheonette in the same block where they offer yummy sandwiches and salads from 11 till 3 everyday. Matt and Anya exemplify the diverse creative look and spirit of Highland Park. Check them out atwww.cafedeleche.net, stop in at the 2 venues, live some of their dream. Maybe you’ll have one of your own!
Besides meeting some interesting people, learning about some cool places, and having a nice bike ride, I learned some better bike routes through Highland Park. We started off along the LA River bike path to Debs Park, then took a circuitous route over to the community garden. To reach Cafe de Leche, we rode up Avenue 56 from Figueroa towards York (a more level route than I would have done on my own), then parallel to the busy York Blvd on the much quieter Buchanan Street. Circling back to the start of our trip we rode in the bike lane that extends along much of York Blvd.
I really enjoyed this outing and plan to do more. Slowly, Los Angeles is becoming more bike-friendly through the efforts of groups like CICLE and more. Even the mayor is more sensitive to the needs of bicyclists (especially since he was in a bicycle accident) and has pledged to add more bike lanes at a greater rate than has been done in the past. The City of Los Angeles will never become a city like Davis where the bicycles outnumber the people, but who would have thought even 10 years ago that we would have the support of City government like this?
Kudos to the bike activists! Here is a list of some of the resources, groups and events you can explore:
Sunday Funday rides and the annual LA River Ride:
Mayor Villaraigosa's Bicycle Plan:
Lots of great how-to info plus calendar of events: