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Westlake to get dozens of new bicycle racks

October 15, 2010 |  7:00 am

The blocks around MacArthur Park buzz with street life.

Vendors sell fruit and champurrado. Photographers snap Polaroids for cash.  And, this being one of the city’s poorest communities, a lot of people get around on bicycles.

By the end of the month, they will have dozens of new places to lock up their bikes.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is in the process of installing racks at about 40 new sites around the Westlake neighborhood, including outside the Guatemalan and Mexican embassies and near the offices of legal aid organizations.

On Thursday, members of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and City Councilman Ed Reyes watched as city workers installed four new racks outside of the Carecen day laborer center in the parking lot of the Home Depot at Wilshire Boulevard and Union Avenue.

The racks are intended to benefit the neighborhood’s low-income immigrants, a demographic that bicycle activists say is a significant -- and often overlooked -- segment of L.A.'s bicycle culture.

Because cars are expensive and driver’s licenses are only available to those in the United States legally, immigrants often turn to bicycling, said Allison Mannos of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

Mannos is the coordinator of the City of Lights program, which teaches Latino cyclists about bike care and safety. She called the people she works with “accidental environmentalists,” who bicycle out of necessity, not choice.

Until now, Mannos said, there was a dearth of bicycle racks in the Westlake neighborhood, and bicycle theft was common. City of Lights in January petitioned the city for more racks.

“Bike parking, even though it doesn’t seem glamorous, sends a message to people,” she said. “If someone arrives in the community and they find a rack when they roll up, they feel welcome.”

The city is also installing new bicycle racks at day laborer sites in Van Nuys and downtown L.A.

The Bicycle Coalition is pushing for other changes, including the installation of bicycle corrals and the striping of protected bicycle lanes on 7th Street and Figueroa.

-- Kate Linthicum