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Cycling in L.A. can be fun and easy. Really.

July 21, 2009 |  4:34 pm

Bicycling in Los Angeles is an intimidating prospect, what with traffic, cars and traffic. Did we mention traffic?

Kn00z0ncBut riding a bike in L.A. can be fun, enjoyable and healthy, and you don't have to go from being a non-cyclist one day to being an uber-cyclist the next. Don't believe us? Take a gander at "The Bicycle Lifestyle Guide," a new booklet put out by Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange, an L.A.-based nonprofit group that promotes cycling as a healthy, practical and environmentally friendly way to get around town.

The booklet includes information on the positive aspects of cycling, plus essential gear (baskets, messenger bags, helmets) and how to gradually incorporate the activity into your life. One suggestion is to draw a 1- or 2-mile radius around your home and pinpoint a few rideable locations, such as markets and cafes, then gradually add more spots each month.

Sound really basic? Good. It's supposed to.

"We're coming from the viewpoint of the non-cycling public," said Liz Elliott, C.I.C.L.E.'s executive director. "Those of us who have cycled for a while can forget what it's like to be a new cyclist. But this will show people that they can have the same lifestyle and incorporate it bit by bit."

By not taking an all-or-nothing approach and focusing on the fun and green aspects of cycling, she hopes people will find riding enjoyable. The 30-page color booklet is available online, and hard copies are often handed out at C.I.C.L.E.-sponsored events (a donation is requested).

For those who want to take things a little further, C.I.C.L.E. also offers cycling classes.

So continue to watch the Tour de France, but don't succumb to pressure to bike the Alps. Or climb La Cienega. Said Elliott, "Even riding once a month is a noble effort."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Kevin Ellis / AP

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Comments (11)

Bicycling is great, but could be greater (with the assist of some contiguous bike lanes). For me the commute from Miracle Mile to Century City is all mindset: strap on the helmet and believe in my heart I'm not gonna be sideswiiped by speeding cars on Olympic.

I have no idea what the main idea is in your article. Cycling in LA is easy? Safe? Where? This passes for news in the LA Times? Has the author ever seen a bike or tried to ride in LA?

Nice article...and a clever publication with an on-target message.

The single most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for some bicycling on city streets is to adopt the attitude you, as a cyclist, do belong on streets. At first, choose low-traffic roads and routes carefully, gradually building confidence while acting as a legitimate roadway user following more or less the same rules and conventions as operators of motor vehicles, and pretty soon bicycling on almost any road becomes fun, relaxing and invigorating. Good luck!

Worried about traffic? I would suggest riding the pathways along the L.A. River. No worries about traffic there--maybe 'foot' traffic. Cycling with a friend along the L.A. River path from beginning (Maywood/Vernon) to end (in Long Beach, 16+ miles) is quite fun.

We take it for granted, but the beach ride from MDR up to Malibu must be one of the most pleasant anywhere.

The picture on the front page of the online Times shows two cyclists pedalling along, happy as can be. That's lovely, but howsabout we show a picture of cyclists wearing helmets? They save lives, folks.

Just make sure you ride on the RIGHT side of the road. Always go with the traffic, never against it. Most newbies make this mistake (I see it every day), and it's the most dangerous thing they can do.

Traffic, cars, traffic. No mention of their byproduct? Er...pollution? Even the so-called "moderate" pollution in most of the city ("moderate" has little meaning these days), when inhaled deeply, is toxic, especially over time.

Combine the bad air with bad drivers (immersed in their own cellphone worlds) and some of the worst streets in the world (broken wheels, broken bones) - and should I even mention the intense heat? - and you have Los Angeles: a very bad place to bicycle.

Cycling in Los Angeles isn't always easy, and it's clear that L.A. has a l-o-n-g way to go before it can be classified as bicycle friendly. But, many (if not most) people in Los Angeles can find at least one regular trip that can taken by bike in a low-stress and joyful way. Many of our car trips are taken for errands and are under 2-miles. Armed with a nice route on low-traffic streets and strong bike skills and street smarts, a new cyclist CAN have a positive bicycling experience in Los Angeles--even if it is just once a month.

I got rid of my car in December 2007. Biking in LA is not a myth... I've seen it... with my own two eyes! I ride from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills for work... and from Santa Monica to Larchmont for my love. It's dangerous out there... so always wear a helmet.

Thank goodness there are organizations like CICLE around. If we left it up to the city, county and state government, well don't get me started.

Thanks to CICLE for the great little pamphlet the "The Bicycle Lifestyle Guide," I've been trying to get it to some of my non biking friends.


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