car-clogged L.A. is now a bike co-op hub (lol)

October 26, 2010

Let’s not notice that I forgot to mention the Valley Bikery in Chatsworth (sorry, guys!), but as usual, I was writing on deadline. Either way, Los Angeles–the epicenter of America’s car culture–has ironically become the bicycle co-op capital of the country with over six active non-profits dedicated to providing services and education for the urban (and suburban) cyclist.

My two cents from last week’s DT:

Los Angeles’ bicycle scene hits adolescence

Braving potholes, uninformed drivers and all-around inhospitable city streets, Los Angeles cyclists are forced to fend for themselves. And that is exactly what they’ve done.

In the last few years, Los Angeles’ urban cycling community has put its DIY ethics in action, propelling the scene forward by creating specialized group rides, opening bike shops and spearheading advocacy organizations that attempt to do the impossible — turn the sprawled-out dystopia of Los Angeles into a bike-friendly city.

Unlike bikeable urban areas such as Portland, Ore., San Francisco and New York that have long had physical and social two-wheeled infrastructures, Los Angeles is still growing into its cycling identity, and this year it celebrates a milestone that might seem petty to those cities.

It was only five years ago that L.A.’s first bike co-op — the Bicycle Kitchen, or La Bici Cocina — moved out of its space inside the Los Angeles Eco-Village and opened its non-profit doors at the now-bike-centric intersection of Melrose Avenue and Heliotrope Drive.

Though it might not sound like that long ago, Bicycle Kitchen has inspired and shaped the growth of Los Angeles’ biking community in the last five years more than a bike shop ever could.

This is mainly because the Bicycle Kitchen is not a bike shop at all — it’s a volunteer-run operation that promotes bicycles as viable transportation and runs programs to educate cyclists of all ages on how to build and maintain their ride.

From beginning cyclists who want to learn how to change a flat tire to more advanced riders who just need to rent a repair stand and some tools so they can swap out their new cranks, the Bicycle Kitchen is a bike-obsessed cultural center that welcomes all.

In addition to teaching local high school students how to build their own wheels and offering up a ladies-only repair night, the co-op also sponsors rides to local art galleries, bike-related street fairs and fundraising concerts, all of which spur dialogue between the city’s diverse riders.

Since its move to East Hollywood in 2005, the Bike Kitchen has become a model establishment, inspiring cyclists in other Los Angeles neighborhoods to form their own take-what-you-need, give-what-you-can bike joints and making the United States’ most car-obsessed city into one that is also rich in bicycle co-ops.

First there were Bike Oven and Bikerowave. Bike Oven started in a Highland Park garage as a place where friends could come to trade parts and fix bikes. Word spread quickly and in 2007, it moved into a more accessible location on Figueroa Street and is now Northeast Los Angeles’ signature co-op.

Bikerowave spent several years hiding in an industrial area of Santa Monica before expanding into a legitimate storefront in Mar Vista last year, making it the Westside’s go-to for DIY bike repairs.

read the rest of the story here…

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