With cycling becoming increasingly popular in the South Bay, local riders are increasingly vocal about the need for road safety and additional bike routes.
Car culture reigns supreme in Los Angeles. But thanks to a growing national concern regarding sustainability, other modes of “green” (or eco-friendly) transportation are beginning to become more popular. Case in point: cycling.
In Los Angeles, roughly 1% of commuters bike to work, according to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report. While this might not seem all that high, comparatively the national average is actually around .6%.
The total percentage of Angelenos who rode a bike to work climbed from .6% to 1% since 2000. Additionally, according to a 2010 report by the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, the total percentage of trips by bike or foot in Los Angeles is around 12%, while nationally the percentage is around 9.6%.
Our city has even felt the need to add more bike lanes—more than 120 miles of them during the last five years, according to the Los Angeles Times. So cycling is gradually on the rise in LA, and here in the South Bay cycling culture generally seems to be thriving as well.
The Strand is usually buzzing with cyclists (and the same goes for the Pacific Coast Highway), and the South Bay as a whole appears to be a practical paradise for bicycle fans.
The incredible views of the Pacific don’t hurt either.
“It always makes me feel like a little kid, even if I’m in a bad mood,” says Greg Leibert, a member of Big Orange Cycling, about his sport of choice. “We live in one of the top 10 places in the world to just be outside, and the things we see are unbelievable. There’s nothing like this place.”
However, as cycling becomes more popular in the South Bay, the need for more bike paths—as well as greater education efforts to combat cycling accidents on our roadways—will have to increase as well. Cycling is changing in the South Bay, and as the sport grows in popularity, the region’s cycling infrastructure will also have to adapt.
Carolyn Maynard, program director of PV Bike Chicks, loves to encourage other South Bay women to get out and ride. The Bike Chicks function as a low-key cycling group that helps organize rides throughout the South Bay for local women ranging in age from 18 to the mid-70s.
“We ride for fun and to socialize in a safe environment,” she says, adding that the Bike Chicks filled a specific niche for women who wanted to go on extended—but casual—rides together in the South Bay. The rides, ranging from informal group rides in Palos Verdes to long-distance rides from Torrance to Manhattan Beach, are big on communication and safety as well.
One of the main reasons Carolyn and many of the other women cycle is purely for exercise. “I’ve been a member of a gym for years, and I’d rather ride my bike than go to a spin class for an hour. The whole experience is more invigorating.”
Carolyn notes that The Strand, also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, is popular with the group. One of the more iconic aspects of the South Bay, The Strand runs for 20 miles from the tip of Will Rogers State Beach all the way down to Torrance.
Greg, who’s originally from Kansas City, was smitten the very first time he laid eyes on The Strand. “I was immediately hooked,” he says.
He’s been riding for roughly 20 years now, and he averages around 40 miles a day. He also races competitively, and he’s claimed seven state cycling championships in a variety of disciplines, ranging from criterium (or crit) to time trails. He’s also actively involved in the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix.
Both riders note that, as far as cycling goes, figuring out how to boost driver and cycling interactions in a positive directions is a must. As cycling becomes increasingly popular, more cyclists will take to the road, and confrontations are inevitable.
“The biggest thing for cycling in the South Bay is that there can be a lot of animosity between cyclists and drivers. may see them as a cyclist, but in reality they could be your mother or grandmother,” says Carolyn, adding, “Cyclists are not inanimate objects.”
Collisions in Los Angeles, specifically hit-and-runs involving bicyclists and motorists, have increased by 42% from 2002 to 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times. During that same 10-year stretch, roughly 5,600 cyclists received injuries due to these collisions. Approximately 40% of those involved in these incidents, according to the LA Times, were 18
The need for dedicated bike paths, as well as broader educational efforts regarding rights for both cyclists and drivers, is important—especially in the South Bay. The South Bay Bicycle Coalition (SBBC) aims to encourage local South Bay cities to build more paths, in the hopes of making the area far safer for cyclists and drivers alike.
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The South Bay Bicycle Coalition
An avid cyclist for well more than 60 years, Jim Hannon is on the board of directors for the SBBC, and he’s also the founder of the Beach Cities Cycling Club (BCCC). Jim, who’s a retired aerospace manager and a certified USA Cycling coach, enjoys giving back to his local cycling community.
Through his work with both the BCCC and the SBBC, Jim is often involved in local community rides and bike education classes for youth and adults. (He also spends plenty of time cycling himself, as he typically cranks out thousands of miles each year on a bike.)
He also has a keen understanding of why cycling has become so popular as of late. From the rising price of gas to people looking for sustainable transportation alternatives, cycling is becoming more appealing to a broader range of people. “We’ve seen the cycling community grow like crazy,” he says.
He notes that for both of the organizations he’s involved with, education is key. He adds that many times cyclists and drivers aren’t aware of the basic laws concerning cyclists’ use of roadways. He emphasizes that both parties are fully responsible for understanding how the rules work.
“Sometimes cyclists feel that they have a different set of laws, but that’s not true. They have to abide by the same laws with a few exceptions. The more we can get cyclists to ride their bikes with respect and courtesy, we’ll be better off.”
Julian Katz, president of the SBBC, is continually pushing for additional bike paths in the South Bay. A Philadelphia native, Julian has been cycling regularly for 30 years and averages around 10 miles a day.
Working with other local cyclists, Julian created the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan, which is, notes the Daily Breeze, “a comprehensive strategy aimed at adding more than 200 miles of bikeways in the South Bay.” The plan would feature bicycle lanes and routes designed to encourage cycling, adding roughly 213 miles of “bike-able roadways” to the 70 miles or so of bike-friendly roads that range across the seven cities that approved it, according to The Easy Reader.
The plan was approved in concept in 2011 by seven local South Bay cities, including Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo. However, Julian points out that the local cities haven’t developed most of the paths that the plan suggested.
“Very few of the 213 miles that are in the plan have been implemented,” he says. “We have not found a strong will among the various cities and councils to move expeditiously to get these bike paths on the street.”
It’s important to note that the city councils that approved the plan did so in concept, and the reality of the matter—ranging from procuring funds to determining the safety of the paths—is fairly complicated. However, some cities—like Redondo—are doing their part to increase the total amount of bike paths.
For instance, Redondo Beach approved to remove the wall that separates the Hermosa section of The Strand from Redondo Beach. A welcome beach featuring “kinetic art” will also be introduced as part of the Harbor/Herondo Gateway Improvement Project, according to The Beach Reporter.
More bike paths are hopefully on the way, but Julian notes that education efforts are just as important. “Cyclists are their own worst enemies in terms of putting bikeways on the street because too many of them run through stop signs and ride on the wrong side of the street,” he says, adding that he recently rode behind a cyclist who sped right through a stop sign on Hermosa Avenue.
“You need enforcement, and you need education,” he says, adding that the SBBC is interested in undertaking a campaign in the South Bay that would work on citing cyclists who disobey certain traffic laws. They would be given the “opportunity to take an education course and waive the fine,” he says, noting that he’s still working on getting local police departments interested in this particular policy.
Push for Bike Paths
While there are complicated logistics involved in increasing the total amount of bike paths (and it’s obvious that it will take some time to fully realize the grand scale of the SBBC’s plan), a greater awareness amongst cyclists and drivers of sometimes confusing traffic laws would greatly benefit the South Bay cycling community as a whole. Greg notes that an understanding of the laws for both parties—either by taking educational courses or by studying up on the laws personally—would be absolutely beneficial.
“I’d like to see drivers be more understanding with cyclists and for cyclists to be more understanding of what drivers are going through,” he says.
For Greg, adding more bike paths is vital to making cycling in the South Bay safer, but a better awareness of the often convoluted traffic laws involving cyclists and drivers is needed locally. “For both sides, we have to learn how to coexist,” he says.
More than a pipe dream.