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To Summit Up: The LA Bike Summit in Review

March 8, 2009
(img: model)
Biketopia. Photo: Umberto Brayj

As I noted earlier, I was unable to make it to the opening events of the LA Bike Summit, and unfortunately, maintenance delays on the Blue Line made me even later than I was already. By others’ accounts, it looks like there were lots of cool miniature cities and stuff. Neato! Too bad there wasn’t a toy godzilla, I would have loved to go on a pretend rampage through the pretend city. Though I also hope to see the day when our real city looks like that pretend city.

t shirtI arrived with my trusty bike, a well-loved Giant. There were no bike racks, so bicyclists took to locking up on ramp railings. I checked in; the staff were very acommodating, not only giving me a free t-shirt but also modeling it for me (see left).

I attended the workshop panel on bike blogging, which featured Damien Newton of Streetsblog, Siel [last name withheld] of Green LA Girl, Road Block of Midnight Ridazz, Ele Munjeli of the Bikex Database, and Ted Rogers of Biking in LA. I missed Damien and Siel’s opening statements, but being followers of their blogs I already had some idea where they were coming from.

I arrived in the middle of Road Block’s opening speech. His story of the creation of Midnight Ridazz as a site to organize group bike rides and its rise to popularity was inspiring. He told of how from in the beginning the group only held rides one a week, but now there were rides every day. He also said he felt that LA actually has one of the best bike scenes in the country.

Next was Ele, a biker and programmer who was developing a google maps-based website for bikers to report incidents motorists’ inappropriate driving. She said she hoped to empower bicyclists and make the streets safer by cracking down on serial bike antagonists behind the wheel. She also brought up that in the Mandeville Canyon biking incident, claims made against a renegade driver were supported by records of his previous misdeeds.

Ele Munjeli and Ted Rogers

Last up was Ted, whose experience of being a biker in LA seemed pretty dismal. Streets are poorly designed, he told us, and the drivers are terrible. For him, it’s almost as bad as his experiences biking in the Deep South. What’s more, he thinks the conditions now are worse than when he moved here. However, he did have a bit of uplifting news to relay as well: Since his blog is active incovering elections from a cyclist’s perspective, he’s had indication that in close elections, his blog has tipped the votes in favor of the more bike-friendly candidate.

As the panel discussion continued, Damien lamented the fact that negative bike stories generated much more attention than positive ones, and what’s more, positive bike stories seemed to actually slow traffic on his site (a pattern to which I can also attest). However, not wanting to give biking in LA an unnecessarily bad reputation, he decided to balance negative stories with stories about rides he took which went off without a hitch, and just deal with the reduced site traffic.

Siel elaborated on this, saying that despite her own bad biking experiences she was not scared away from biking, and she struggled with being accurate in her portrayal of biking realities while also not making the situation look unnecessarily dire. She also told us about her bike of choice, a pink townie.

damien siel
Damien Newton and Siel

An audience member had a question for Road Block. He said that he was a great admirer of Midnight Ridazz’s work, but at the same time he was concerned about the behavior of some attendees at certain rides. The questioner said he had been on rides where people were drinking and even smoking crack pipes. Road (as those who know him on a first-name basis call him) responded strongly, that Midnight Ridazz did not endorse drinking at their rides and that if individuals chose to drink, they were solely responsible for their actions.

I had a question for Ele, asking whether or not she wants to add a feature on her site for cyclists to map out good routes where they encounter little to no difficulty riding. She responded that she didn’t want to lose focus from tracking down rogue drivers, and that she felt that catching the few bad drivers would make every street safer.

ellyAfter the panel was over, I had a few words with Elly Blue, the diminutive (in stature, not spirit) Portlandite bike website editor. I asked her a few questions about the Portland bike scene, which we here are often told is nothing short of utopian. She assured me that she’d have a full report online about what she had to say here. I asked if Portland was a good bike city because of the infrastructure or because of the community. She said that both were indispensable. I wanted to ask her more, but at that point Ele showed up, and since their first names were pronounced the same they were obligated to talk for awhile.

Unlike Portland, which has both bike culture and infrastructure, LA only has bike culture. But what a culture. The LA Bike Summit was both a recognition of the changes which need to come and a strong showing for the future of the bicycle in Los Angeles. Hopefully, as the movement continues to grow there will be popular support for more bike-friendly roads and laws.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2009 4:45 pm

    I didn’t realize was something of a business! It makes sense though given how well-put together the stories, and the site, are.

    Makes me think that we could use some of that here in L.A. to compliment the hard work of so many gratis blog posts, Flickr photos, and YouTube videos that people create to cover the cycling scene.

  2. Drew permalink*
    March 15, 2009 8:44 pm

    Yeah, they have a pretty nice operation up there. As for professional-grade bike resources in LA, we’ll always have “Brayj Against the Machine”! Seriously though, I think LA Streetsblog is an asset to biking in the region, and while the myriad indie blogs may be disjointed, they each help out in their own way. Still, it would be nice to have an LA-centric mega news source on the level of Bike Portland.


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