#LABT in Downtown LA News!


Downtown Bike Commuters Find Safety and Fun in Group Rides

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 3:00 pm

By Ryan Vaillancourt

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – When it comes to riding a bicycle, especially on city streets, the rule of safety in numbers applies.

A group of cyclists pedaling at the same pace is simply more visible to car drivers. There’s another plus about riding in a group: It’s more fun.

Those beliefs led cycling advocates Nona Varnado and Bruce Chan to form L.A. Bike Trains, an upstart organization that hosts weekly morning rides between various residential neighborhoods and employment hubs.

By creating a group setting to ride to work, Bike Trains hopes to inspire people to ditch their cars and take to the streets on two wheels. It seems to be getting some traction: After launching in May with four routes, Bike Trains is now up to nine routes, four of which culminate in Downtown (other destinations include Long Beach and Santa Monica).

“Our number one target audience is the people who basically don’t feel comfortable riding by themselves,” Varnado said. “They might not have any experience or might not know how to get there.”

Here’s how it works: Would-be participants pick a route that corresponds with their commute (most rides start in the Silver Lake/Los Feliz area). Riders convene at a starting point and roll out by 8 a.m. Downtown destinations include Fifth and Olive streets and Seventh Street and Grand Avenue. Some routes pick up regular riders along the way

Each ride is led by a “conductor,” an experienced cyclist with safety training for riding in the street.



twitter: @nonavarnado


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:


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


twitter: @nonavarnado

a very stylish bike commute

Is your fear of getting sweaty and not looking professional keeping you from taking cycling more seriously as a commuting option?Alternative Route004 co-conductors Kelly & Kelli (you read that correctly) keep it classy and stylish as they ride from Silver Lake -> Downtown LA! And they’re both members of the Bodacious Bike Babes. With Morning Edition blasting from their speakers, get a work out AND get informed!

Depart 8AM @ Cafe Vita, Silver Lake.
End @ 7th & Grand, Downtown LA.

More info @ http://labiketrains.com/routes/

— with Kelli Bachmann and Kelly Majewski.


twitter: @nonavarnado

Special LA Bike Train to City Hall


Tomorrow the LA City Council will hear the LAPD report on hit-and -runs along with recommendations on how to improve the situation. And it’s a surprisingly hopeful event that’s super important to have cyclists representing. See LACBC’s write up about the meeting & it’s implications.

To show our support for safe streets we’re running a special (alt. Route 004) Bike Train, so that you can easily find the meeting, ride with friends and get excited about making LA a safer and more enjoyable place to live and ride.

Meet at:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Caffe Vita
4432 W Sunset Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Meet at 7:45 am
Roll out at 7:55 am
Arrive at 8:30 am

4470 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA

4.8 mi – about 28 mins
1. Head southeast on W Sunset Blvd toward Virgil Pl
3.4 mi
2. Turn right onto N Beaudry Ave
0.5 mi
3. Turn left onto W 1st St
0.8 mi
4. Turn left onto N Main St

Destination will be on the left
0.1 mi
Los Angeles City Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA

*facebook event details

Don’t forget to sign up for regular weekly LA Bike Trains!
psst!  …you can also follow our adventures on facebook & twitter


twitter: @nonavarnado

LA Bike Trains in Santa Monica Daily Press!

Bike Trains offer alternative commute

A cyclist makes his way down Main Street on Monday during the evening commute. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

A cyclist makes his way down Main Street on Monday during the evening commute. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)


COUNTYWIDE — A collective of cyclists from across Los Angeles County is coming together to offer a fun and eco-friendly commuting alternative: bike trains.

While work is underway to gain nonprofit status, for the past two months the volunteer group LA Bike Trains has directed cyclists to meet up or join others riding to work along pre-designated routes — including one into Santa Monica — following a leader, or conductor, said Nona Varnado, co-founder of the group and staffer at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

Varnado explained that bike trains are a global phenomenon, often as an activity amongst friends. LA Bike Trains, on the other hand, hopes to transform the concept into a more inclusive and strategic enterprise including creating a smartphone app that will facilitate coordination.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who’s done this as a business,” Varnado said.

Traffic congestion continues to be a problem in the county with bicycles providing a solution, Varnado said. In Santa Monica, a city that boasts having the largest bike center in the nation with lockers and showers for commuters, bicycles have been embraced as an alternative form of transportation with bike lanes and parking spaces all across the city.

As the group of bike train volunteers completes the legal proceedings for nonprofit status, Varnado said that they have already successfully brokered a deal with the bike shop Orange 20 Bikes in Hollywood to offer a discount package for LA Bike Trains participants that includes a bike, lock and helmet for $550 before tax.

She added that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has expressed interest in supporting the group after writing a piece about them on the LADOT Bike Blog.

One of the motivations behind running a structured network of bike trains across the county was the lack consideration for those who use bicycles as their main form of transportation such as fewer bike-friendly forms of infrastructure than needed, Varnado said.

“Los Angeles does not think of bicycling as transportation but as recreation,” Varnado said.

Wesley “Wes” High, conductor of the bike train from Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake to about Ninth Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, said that he joined LA Bike Trains because he wanted to play a role in supporting the bicycle community beyond his work for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Neighborhood Bike Ambassador Program.

“I don’t think there’s enough done to make Los Angeles a bike-friendly place,” High said.

High, who works for the local advertising agency Phelps, said that the part of his bike train route that goes through Santa Monica is a pleasant difference from other areas, including Beverly Hills, where bike lanes have only recently been added.

Peter Dzewaltowski, transportation planner for Santa Monica, noted that partly due to the city’s efforts to enact an award-winning bike plan in the last few years, it comes as no surprise that the city’s rankings in the National Bike Challenge showed 76 percent of Santa Monicans use bicycles for utilitarian purposes.

“It’s an everybody wins kind of circumstance when we get someone to forgo an automobile for an alternative form of transportation,” Dzewaltowski said.

Beyond a bike train’s logistical benefits, High said that the social element of riding with others is something worthwhile.

“Usually when driving to work you have thousands of cars around you but you don’t interact with others,” High said.

Varnado remembered that during one of her bike trains a rider got a flat tire. The whole train moved aside to help and in about five minutes the bicycle was repaired and they were all on their way. She added that the trains are considerate of everyone with the slowest and fanciest dressed setting the pace for the whole train to ensure no one gets too exhausted or messy on their way to work.

While participation numbers have been low, Varnado has hopes for the group’s future and its expansion.

“If you can do this in Los Angeles, you can do it elsewhere,” Varnado said.

For now there are only eight set routes available but Varnado said those interested may fill out a commuter survey on the group’s website at http://www.labiketrains.com as the conductors are crowdsourcing for potential new ones. She added that the website and survey link will be updated soon.

– See more at: http://smdp.com/bike-trains-offer-alternative-commute/124660#sthash.WQCHElYP.dpuf

Originally published July 16, 2013 9:24 PM


twitter: @nonavarnado

crowdsourced bike maps #LA

I first discovered the New York Times article via my #BikeNYC friends, only to see that several other cities were represented (but with far less activity on the maps, presumably those other cities don’t have as many rabid NYT readers). As something to explore, the NYC map is the most interesting – so far.

NYT map

Gizmodo had a good article articulating how the project came about and comparing it to Strava, which was informational but also funny. The map invites cyclists to add ten-word blurbs to a map of the city. They range from practical advice (“Avoid Brooklyn Bridge unless it’s early or late”) to jokey (“Williamsburg Bridge is a drag strip for Category 6 racing”). You can also toggle onto a secondary mode, which pulls data from the popular GPS tracking app, Strava, to show which routes are most popular amongst users. There are already plenty of different mapping options for cyclists who need directions, but this interactive grants us access to a secondary layer of information: all of the tips and tricks that, normally, take years of experience to amass.

Awesome! But what about Los Angeles?

It exists! Along with Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicageo, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, Toronto, Boston & D.C.

NYT LA map

As a founder of L.A. Bike Trains, I’m SUPER interested in maps pertaining to cycling in Los Angeles County, not just the hot spots in downtown, Silver Lake and Santa Monica. Where there are people, there’s a need to make bicycling a pleasurable and easy to figure out experience. The very next day I came across Commuterama.com another interactive transportation map, this one dedicated to LA.


I was bummed, however to see that it’s another driving tool, like the popular waze app that “brings 30 million drivers together.” Usually to suggest ‘off streets’ that push aggressive drivers trying to shave time off their trips onto small residential streets, where cyclist are told they belong and feel they’ll be safe because it’s clear from the traffic issues of the main avenues. Does anyone else see the inequality and potential problems from that approach?

Instead of developing alternatives to the unsustainable model of a car for everyone and every trip, why are we not pushing development of maps like the NYT biking map? If Waze was ethical, they’d keep cars off biking routes (which they don’t) and if Commuterama really wanted to make LA a better place to live, it would be a multi-modal approach that would encourage public transportation and biking alternatives. The good news is that Commuterama is looking for public feedback and because they’re supported by LADOT, they’re likely to bend to any significant response asking for things like public transit and biking features/information.

So drop them a line:

Feel free to share any ideas and wishes you may have about your commute by emailing [email protected].

{UPDATE: LA Bike Trains, reached out had a *great* talk with the commuterama.com team about bringing bike routes and infrastructure into what they are developing. Yeah LA!!!}


twitter: @nonavarnado

Learn to Bike on LA City Streets!


Interested in riding bikes, but intimidated by LA streets or just not sure how to ride with the confidence of an experienced urban bike rider? You’re in luck! This class is designed to teach adults how to use a bicycle with confidence and competence for pleasure, utility and sport under various practical conditions.

[Please RSVP to the facebook events page so we can know how many to anticipate.]

From 9am – 10am we’ll have classroom based instruction at R5Y7: a bicycle gallery located at 4357 Melrose Ave. Close to the Vermont/Santa Monica Red line and LACC.

The Basics
• The Bicycle
• Maintenance Basics
• Clothing and Equipment

Bicycling in Traffic
• Your Role in Traffic
• Avoiding Crashes
• Hazard Avoidance Maneuvers

From 10am – Noon we’ll finish our classroom (gallery) overviews and do some guided on street riding. Starting with the bike lane on Heliotrope and progressing as people are comfortable.

Co-Taught between the legendary Dorothy Wong, a UCI certified instructor and director of SoCalCross with Siobhan Dolan, cook at LA’s bicycle kitchen and organizer of the LA Ladies Bicycle Brunch series.

This workshop is geared towards adults who have little or no experience riding a bike or who need help learning the skills and confidence to begin riding in urban traffic.



twitter: @nonavarnado

How To Bike In The City [Video]

Can you say New Favorite Video?

Grist just published this on their youtube channel and it’s blowing up. Why? because it’s the happy fun educational video that we’ve been waiting for: it appeals equally to the new rider testing out the idea as to the experienced urban cyclist tired of things that are too basic, too cheesy. Bravo!


twitter: @nonavarnado

LA Bike Trains: CicLAvia to the Wolfpack Crit

This cicLAvia is all about walking in LA! That’s awesome… but we’re kinda into… bikes. We’ll be going CRAZY at all the free open art museums along museum mile, then leaving from La Brea Tar Pits (across from the Folk Art Museum!) and leisurely heading to the K-Town hub. Our Ultimate Destination is the Wolfpack Hustle Civic Center Criterium Race. There will be food trucks, awesome bike vendors and the amazing chance to see road and fixed, women’s and mens’s extreme bicycle racing around gorgeous LA city hall! Whoot! It’s rad to be a spectator with something this special. Join us!


L.A. Bike Trains Special Event Route: CicLAvia to the Wolfpack Crit.

Join us for a leisurely ride along the cicLAvia iconic Wilshire Blvd route, stop to enjoy some of the local activities and ride as a group through some open streets before enjoying an afternoon of live bicycle races around beautiful LA city hall.


La Brea Tar Pits (Wilshire/S. Curson)
Departure Time: 11:30am

K-Town Hub
3700 Wilshire (corner of S. Oxford)
Departure Time: 12:40pm

Fitness Hub (Figueroa/Wilshire)
Departure Time: 2:10pm

Wolfpack Hustle Civic Center Criterium


About LA Bike Trains:

Need to get to work in Los Angeles? Wish your commute was super fun instead of a drag?

We provide a rolling party along select routes run by Conductors – experienced urban cyclists – to harness the safety of riding in a group while kicking it up a notch by making the ride a fun social experience.  And it’s totally free!



twitter: @nonavarnado

reddit is blowing up L.A. Bike Trains!


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!)


twitter: @nonavarnado