The New LA Bike Tutor


Amazing social impact – is the nonprofit that runs LA Bike Trains.

Our Story: We started in 2012 inspired by earlier Bike Train efforts in NYC and Canada. By the end of 2013 we had 10 routes covering 100’s of miles in LA County run entirely by volunteers. In 2014 cities across America and abroad were talking about the car centric LA becoming bike friendly via a program called bike trains (thanks to articles in NPR, The Guardian, The LA Times, Bicycling Magazine and many more. We’ve taught other cities how to replicate the program and benefited from major support from the Roth Foundation, the Clif Bar Family Foundation and the David Bohnett Foundation.

LA Bike Trains has taught hundreds of people how to ride to work and school and encouraged people to bike a cumulative total of almost 100,000 miles between 2013-2017.

But impact & fundraising don’t always go together

To make the most of lean budgets, we’ve put together private corporate bike trains programs for UCLA and for METRO during ‘bike week’ in May. Staying focused on positive community impact has led us to producing the ‘Los Angeles Bicycle Festival’ (2014, 2016) and numerous cultural and educational events.

And sadly, without major financial support an effective Bike Trains program isn’t possible. But the need for individuals to learn, connect and enjoy getting around by bike continues. So we’ve launched the Bike Tutor program, where you can still get all the knowledge, encouragement and joy of learning to commute by bicycle in Los Angeles.

So – sign up for Bike Tutor, or help a friend by buying them a lesson!

Keep up with other Bicycle Culture Institute events. Donate, volunteer and help friends, neighbors and colleagues to live their best (bike) life!

From Wikipedia: Bike-lifting (Also known in Chicago as the Chicago hold-up)
Bike-lifting is when a [Critical Mass] participant raises his or her bicycle in the air. This occurs when an intersection is corked, when a cyclone is occurring, or at any point a participant desires to hold a bicycle in the air.


twitter: @nonavarnado

LA Bike Trains 2.0 arriving soon

 WE ARE EVOLVING. – the nonprofit that runs LA Bike Trains – is transitioning away from large scale group rides and towards a more cost effective 1:1 ‘Bike Tutor’ program.

Have no fear!  To answer the overwhelming demand for personal 1:1 instructions, help and other personalized assistance… We’ve got you!

Soon we’ll have an online form where you can submit your request, pay for it – or request a low-income fee waiver.  That way we’re helping people the way they most need it – and folks who can afford it will help us continue to help everyone. We all win when we work together.

It’s important we stay strong & positive in this new political climate.


twitter: @nonavarnado

The road to building the LABT mobile app


While many of our efforts, are based on volunteer time (Thank you, Conductors!) we need to raise money for developing an app to let people easily sign up, ‘live track’ where a bike train is, get the best routes for riding around LA and more. So we jumped on the #SmallBiz bandwagon and are hoping @WellsFargoWorks selects us to receive 25k towards our goal!

You can help by clicking on the link, voting. No need to register or login to anything. And you can vote 1x everyday! From now until July 19, 2015.

Video produced by Kym NonStop!

Here’s our Tweet: Help us win $25k! Check out our #WellsFargoWorks entry & vote by July 19 #smallbiz #LABT

Or please consider contributing directly.

Post Script: WellsFargo has encouraged participants to share widely on Social Media – but it’s not really clear how votes/views would impact a submission. My feeling is that no one really wants to go through the task of voting for projects online and it’s really only a contest of who has a celebrity endorsement or a focus on online popularity, rather than project/business merit – since we tend to only vote to support our friends. So how will that trend (vetting projects for funding via social voting) last? Interestingly it seems that there’s a move to a ‘blended’ approach with judges making choices balanced by overall votes. In a way it seems like any organization running a contest is looking for exposure from applicants!

Remember: vote early & often! 😉


twitter: @nonavarnado

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.


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!


twitter: @nonavarnado

Ride, run or walk to support #finishtheride

NOTE: Our friend Damian Kevitt, is the survivor of a horrible hit and run in Griffith Park. His story, subsequent amputation and transformation into a hero of recovery turned something awful into an incredible mission to make the world a better place. It remains one of the most awesome things we’ve had the honor of being a small part of. We hope that you make time this Sunday, to participate as a cyclist, runner or walker. Go Damian!!


Finish the Ride, Run, Walk ‘n Roll

LISTEN!! Finish the Ride is happening…again!  What was a single event to commemorate a terrible event has turned into a movement, for safe city streets and ending hit and run crimes. A movement to support walking, bike riding, running, skateboarding, and having fun without fear of becoming roadkill. 

It starts at 7:30am in Hollywood with VIP speakers, including the LA DOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds, Councilman Busciano, Councilman O’Farrell and a very special guest you’ll want to see.

The Run, Ride and Walking events roll at 8 AM. From 6 easy miles all the way up to 50 miles, a 10K Run, 10K Walk and 10K Roll.  Yes, EVERY form of active transportation is represented, skate-boarders, roller-blades, roller-skaters, even unicyclists.  Full support with activities, water and rest stops, SAG wagon, etc. 

The event is kid friendly and dog friendly. Please no cats or iguanas. 🙂

Everything finishes at The Autry Museum south lawn in Griffith Park with food, live music, dancing, BBQ, beer, ice cream, beer, yoga, free t-shirt, finishing medal (or ribbon, depending on the event), great goodie bag with free swag, raffle, silent auction, free stuff and good times.

Did you know that between last year’s event, awareness campaigns, legislation and a lot of work, we dropped hit and run crimes by 16%. It all started with a little bike ride a year ago.

Have a great time. Help make LA a safer place to live. What are you waiting for? REGISTER!



twitter: @nonavarnado

Donate 2014 Charity Dollars To Make Bicycling AWESOME


Make your 2014 charitable dollars work! Help us reach $50k to develop the mobile app HERE

2014 Accomplishments:

While most of our programs are focused on Los Angeles, we’re also working to bring these fun and helpful learning tools to other cities – and countries! In February 2015 executive director Nona Varnado will be speaking in Bogota (ciclovia) and Medellin (World Bike Forum), Colombia on how to bring DIY bike culture to communities to create positive social change.

The mission:

Bicycle Culture Institute is a non-profit organization focused on mentorship, developing a resource library and broad media attention for a diverse range of voices about bicycling. We help other non-profits, coalitions, co-ops, ride groups and large companies focus on their primary mission by developing high quality education programs, workshops and training.

Based on 15 years of innovative cycling culture projects including: race development, community organizing, brand development and traditional advocacy. We believe in making friends, learning from other cities and individuals around the globe to build connections between people.

You can support BCI’s general operating fund or make sure your donation goes 100% to the #LABIKETRAINS mobile app. We’re pretty excited that this little project has some big potential to transform cities like LA into great places to ride for everyday transportation.

Not into paypal? Checks can be written to: Bicycle Culture Institute and mailed to 5918 Willoughby Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038


We need you to keep the good work up. Social media likes feel nice, but they don’t keep the wheels moving. To say thank you to anyone who contributes financially, we’d like to offer:

  • Any donations over $50 get a handwritten thank you note
  • Over $250 special 1:1 bike ride (1 hr) in Los Angeles with any active LA Bike Train conductor (pending scheduling)

Over $500 you can choose:

  • Get your logo on the L.A. Bike Trains jersey
  • “Special Valet Service” with founder Nona Varnado
  • the official L.A. Bike Trains ‘Conductor’s Kit’ a reflective saddle bag with Lezyne brand mini-pump, tools, lever/patch kit, energy snack and first aid items.
  • Invitation to private events, rides and parties in 2015

and Thank you. Paying attention and helping us spread the word is a HUGE help. If you can’t contribute $ this season, consider offering some of your time and talent. email us at: info @ LABikeTrains .com



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twitter: @nonavarnado

2014 Rider Survey


Thanks for a great 2014. Help us make L.A. Bike Trains better and more accessible for people all over Los Angeles in 2015! Only 10 questions will make a big difference.

Here is a link to the survey:

Make GREAT use of your 2014 charity dollars and help us reach $50,000. The new app will connect up to 1 million people in LA County with great bike routes, education and encouragement to make riding a bike to work and school AWESOME.

Thanks for your participation!


twitter: @nonavarnado

Code for LA: Lovejoy pitches #LABT app to developers

Former conductor and lead tech super volunteer, Christopher Lovejoy, pitches the L.A. Bike Trains mobile app development to the CODE FOR LA meetup. Code for Los Angeles is the Los Angeles Code for America Brigade, a network of civic-minded technologists who contribute their skills toward using the web as a platform for local government and community service. Check them out or contact us if you want to help us make a mobile app!


twitter: @nonavarnado

L.A. Bike Trains on ‘TakePart’

Say Good-Bye to Riding Your Brakes—Biking to Work Is Easier Than Ever

L.A. Bike Trains, and groups like it in cities across the country, are helping employees get to work without getting into a car.

(Photo: Courtesy

October 27, 2014

For the past two years, cycling advocate Nona Varnado and a handful of overworked, enthusiastic volunteers have been building the social infrastructure and training for every Angeleno to bicycle to work and school.

Yes, bicycle—in traffic-plagued Southern California, no less, where drive-through restaurants were invented because apparently, cars were so beloved that Angelenos wanted to eat meals in them.

Despite her past as a bicycle messenger in New York City, Varnado found that if she wanted to cycle safely in Los Angeles, she’d need a friend to personally show her the routes, show her that it was possible to get around the city without the protective metal cage of a vehicle.

“I get it. Cycling can be terrifying. There’s freeways coming up to the streets, and all my friends in L.A. live 20 miles away,” Varnado said. “I know that if I didn’t have the experience I did with a friend showing me around, even I, an experienced cyclist, wouldn’t have taken the chance. The only way to get people to change their heart is to have these one-to-one experiences.”

L.A. Bike Trains is an extension of that experience, the friend who shows you it’s possible. One morning every workweek, 10 volunteer “conductors” meet to safely shepherd newbie commuter cyclists across the city to work for the a.m. commute. If your quitting times align, you can join the train again for the ride home or just ride back the same way you came.

Varnado calls her riders her “ducks,” and the program is free for anyone with a bike (and presumably a helmet), and for your first few rides, your conductor will personally pick you up at your house and show you the best route to get to your meeting spot. Conductors carefully select their routes to be the optimal experience for a cyclist of any experience level, figuring in hill grades, bike lanes, and even scenic beauty. Routes run from Pasadena to downtown and from Silver Lake to Santa Monica, a daunting 15-mile, cross-city route made accessible by expert conductor Wesley High.

High even records his Silver Lake to Santa Monica ride every day with a helmet-mounted GoPro to catalog how safe his routes are and adjust accordingly. Sometimes drivers cut him off and screech to a stop. Sometimes drivers angrily accuse him of taking the lane to personally ruin their day. The insults hurled can be mind-boggling, but High takes every possible measure to ensure his riders’ safety, going as slowly as needed and making sure every person feels comfortable enough to take the lane when necessary.

“Every rider is going to process angry drivers differently,” Varnado said. “But there’s safety in numbers, and we’ve had no serious injuries on our routes.”

The safety-in-numbers concept has pushed like-minded cyclists in other U.S. cities, such as New York CityPortland, Oregon; and New Orleans, to implement bike trains. The notion extends beyond commuters through the national organization Safe Routes, which uses parent-led bike trains to get children safely to school on bikes.

According to a 2014 report, bike ridership in Los Angeles has gone up 7.5 percent since 2011, with a preliminary count of 18,000 riders across the city.

That’s paltry compared with the half-a-million bikers in New York City. But the promising news is that L.A. Bike Trains has more permanent routes—and more on the way—than any other city’s bike train program, suggesting that Angelenos are interested in better cycling infrastructure.

L.A. Councilmember Mike Bonin used the report as an impetus to ask for more city transportation funds to be allocated to increase bicycle ridership. In New York City, the Department of Transportation implemented this type of plan in 2009 with a goal of doubling ridership by 2012 but reached the goal a year early.

For Varnado, who also works part-time with the nonprofit advocacy and education group L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, the L.A. Bike Trains program is already a success, because she’s able to see her ducks growing up and “graduating” to ride on their own. Some of these graduated riders have developed their own routes or institute programs in their workplaces.

The UCLA Bicycle Coalition, for instance, reached out to Varnado for a one-day bike-to-school event; it was such a success that the UCLA Sustainability department allocated resources and work hours for a permanent route to UCLA.

“I get emails all the time from people wanting to grow this project, thinking it’s already funded,” Varnado said. “It’s not. It’s me not fixing my teeth for two years.”

Varnado said LABT has collected hundreds of commuter surveys from former and current riders, and when it’s ready, it can use the data to help implement change and possibly get these programs funded. Right now, it relies on donations from people who can see the benefits without the hard data, and it’s hoping Los Angeles is a viable contender for a community grant from PeopleForBikes, a privately funded organization.

“If politicians don’t start realizing that young people, families, want safe communities that are not just bike accessible but walking too, then everything else will just be biding our time,” Varnado said.

And we’ll be biding that time in traffic.

A Wolfe has covered arts, entertainment, and politics for Good, Vice, Flaunt, and other publications.


twitter: @nonavarnado