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Biking to UCLA just got awesome: New partnership with L.A. Bike Trains will launch 3 NEW routes on national ‘Bike to Work’ day, Thursday, May 14, 2015.

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Los Angeles, April 28, 2015 – On National Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 14, UCLA Transportation will launch a new partnership with L.A. Bike Trains, a project of the Bicycle Culture Institute.  UCLA Transportation and L.A. Bike Trains bring together everything you need to learn about riding on the street, navigating the city by bike, having fun, staying safe and getting inspired. Three new routes will operate on a regular schedule 3x per week starting in Koreatown, Culver City and Santa Monica and all going to UCLA’s main campus in Westwood. While the routes are intended to serve the UCLA community, anyone may participate.

Los Angeles, long famous for being a city that requires a car to get around also has a history with auto ride share programs. The UCLA routes represent the first time bicycling for transportation has gained the support of a major local institution as a viable solution to congestion, parking and other problems. While Bike to Work day is an easy and fun way to try out bicycling – these bike trains will be operating throughout the school year.

Volunteer ride leaders, referred to as ‘conductors’ complete training to lead groups of bicyclists through city streets and carry tools to handle common problems, like a flat tire. It’s free to participate – interested riders can sign up any time online. Anyone interested in becoming a conductor (or back-up conductor) is encouraged to email ([email protected]) to attend the next round of training.

L.A. Bike Trains will be at Ecochella, this Friday, May 1st along with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). Look for the LACBC Bike Valet and say hi!

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twitter: @nonavarnado

National Public Radio Loves US!!!

What’s better than being on NPR’s “All things Considered?” Being featured 2x and breaking into “Morning Edition”!

You may recall the first story over Thanksgiving 2013. Or the fall out from the atrocious comments made by the driver interviewed in the story, which resulted in a follow up article that is helping advance a positive dialogue on sharing the road. We were pretty stoked and flattered to get that.. so a second feature is beyond sweet. Yeah!

LA Bicycle Commuters Form ‘Bike Trains’ For Safety

A challenge in getting people to bike in big cities is fear of an accident. So a group started a network of bike commuters. This story first aired last December on Weekends on All Things Considered.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A grassroots project in Los Angeles – a city, of course, dominated by cars – is helping those who commute by bicycle but don’t like being out there alone in traffic – called LA Bike Trains. It’s built on the idea of strength in numbers. Alex Schmidt has this encore report.

ALEX SCHMIDT, BYLINE: It’s 6:45 a.m., and Barbara Insua is busy packing a bag.

BARBARA INSUA: I have the pants. Here we go. I have the shirt.

SCHMIDT: Insua will ride seven miles from her home in Pasadena to NASA’s jet propulsion lab where she works as a graphic designer. Insua only started doing this ride a few months ago.

INSUA: It was kind of daunting because, you know, seven miles to the lab. I didn’t know how to do it. You know, I’m not an avid cyclist so…

SCHMIDT: Enter bike trains – basically it’s commuting by bike in groups. Each bike train route has an experienced conductor who guides you. Insua especially likes that these volunteer conductors offer new riders door-to-door service from their homes to the train.

INSUA: He came and picked me up at my house – went way out of his way to get me to bike for, like, two or three weeks. And then I was conditioned.

SCHMIDT: We set out on this chilly morning to meet up with the rest of the bike train nearby. This commuting concept came to long-time cyclist Nona Varnado when she moved to LA from New York. She found that riding here was completely different.

NONA VARNADO: I realized that I needed a one-to-one personal education on how to ride around the city. I needed to be shown, this is how you cross an intersection.

SCHMIDT: Varnado figured others could use the same kind of help. Since launching Bike Trains in May with just a few routes and zero budget, the system has grown to a dozen covering Los Angeles by as much as 20 miles each way – like the route from Silver Lake to Santa Monica. Still bike trains are far from seeing mass adoption.

CHARLES DANDINO: Arm straight out to the left is – indicates a left turn.

SCHMIDT: Back on the Pasadena route, we link up with Charles Dandino, our conductor. All in, we’re five people. The most popular routes see about 10. Dandino gives us the safety rundown.

DANDINO: Your arm bent 90 degrees at the elbow so that your hand is vertical indicates a right turn. And if you flip your elbow over so that your arm is bent 90 degrees with your hand facing downward, that indicates stop. You want to signal these a little bit early. The communication is going to be your best protection.

HERBIE HUFF: I commend them for trying, but it seems tough.

SCHMIDT: Herbie Huff is a policy researcher at UCLA. She says there are lots of obstacles to taking part in bike trains. Huff thinks infrastructure, like bike lanes, would see the biggest win. And a concept like bike share could be an easier entry point.

HUFF: In order to go on the bike train, you need to already have made a bit of a commitment. You need to have already have a bike.

SCHMIDT: And then there’s the issue of safety. In fact, on the morning of the ride, a car cut through the single file of bicycles, missing one by just a couple of feet.

DANDINO: That was a dangerous maneuver.

SCHMIDT: So perhaps the greatest obstacle to bike trains is that drivers don’t like sharing the road.

JACKIE BURKE: It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes.

SCHMIDT: Jackie Burke has lived in LA her whole life, and bicyclists slowing her down drive her crazy.

BURKE: It’s very frustrating to the point where I want to just run them off the road. And I’ve actually kind of done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things just to scare them to try to intimidate them to kind of get out of my way.

SCHMIDT: With road conditions like those, it’s no wonder our conductor has been playing a mellow soundtrack piped through a small speaker during the ride. Bike trains move at the pace of the slowest rider. So even though there have been some hills and an aggressive driver, all in all, it’s been pretty pleasant. We arrive at Insua’s office about 50 minutes after we started.

SCHMIDT: How was the ride for you?

INSUA: It was hard because I don’t take that route very often. But we made it. We’re here.

SCHMIDT: And with that, one converted cyclist heads into work to start her day. For NPR News, I’m Alex Schmidt in Los Angeles.

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twitter: @nonavarnado

L.A. Bike Trains on NPR’s “All Things Considered”

Nona-Varnado-on-NPRThanksgiving was extra exciting after finding out that the NPR piece for “All Things Considered” called: “Shifting Gears: Commuting Aboard the L.A. Bike Trains” went LIVE the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when basically everyone in the country was listening to the radio! Friends from all over the country contacted us to say, “Is that you? What a great project!”

Sadly the more common response is that while the story begins with a heartwarming story of Conductor Charles Dandino’s success with his rider, Barbara; it ends with a quote from Jackie Burke who loudly exclaims, “It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

And it kinda hiijacked the whole conversation and scared off a lot of people who might have given L.A. Bike Trains a try without it. So what should have been an epic pro-bike discussion, backfired. But it also gave us the NPR platform to encourage a follow up conversation, that could have a hugely positive impact on improving the national dialogue re: driver/cyclist relationships. Read L.A. Bike Trains founder, Nona Varnado’s response via The Bird Wheel.

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JIA-CHI

Did you know that co-founder Bruce Chan is an amazing photographer and documentarian of awesome things in LA? He has a pretty incredible blog …and we made it! Check it out:

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I started a new social project.

L.A. Bike Trains

It’s an experiment on how to bolster the confidence of all cyclists, especially those who are the highly interested in adopting cycling as part of their commute options, and  by harnessing the strong community of urban cyclists that already bike to work.  Safety in numbers.

What started in May 2013 with 5 routes, has now grown to 10 routes, and 13 conductors, all traversing across Los Angeles County.  We’re still aiming for higher ridership, and are looking to increase riders who have thought about cycling to work, are enthusiastic about incorporating cycling into their commuting repertoire, and don’t mind getting a little sweaty.

Plus, it forces you to get to work on time.

Find more information, routes, and timetables at www.labiketrains.com

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twitter: @nonavarnado

reddit is blowing up L.A. Bike Trains!

reddit

I was pondering which of the many website upgrades, organization spreadsheets I might work on for L.A. Bike Trains, when I noticed our traffic had just FREAKED OUT. Where was it coming from? reddit and it turns out that several comment threads, based out of neighborhoods all over LA had begun with people talking about where they live and commute from, asking other people to join. (psst – don’t forget to add that info to our commuter survey!)

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twitter: @nonavarnado