“I’m a blogger.” – “I troll random sites.” – “I’m a lurker.” – “I heckle to pass the time.” – “I agree.” – “I agree, but…”
We sit in our rooms, at our cubicles, on our balconies and we write about the happenings going on in LA’s Cycling Community. Whether it’s an update to an event or about a meeting in DTLA where any change seems impossible, LA’s many versatile cycling advocacy groups blog and blog opinions. When we’re done, we wait for comments and prepare to defend or initiate a strike against one another. Though we see the journey differently, we all want the same victory. So, when I met with my fellow Bikesiders and we talked about crawling out of our blogger caves and facing the public voices in person, I was amazed to find the hard questions of the internet discussed directly and intelligently in the open forum: Bikeside SPEAKS!
On May 22, in the heart of the Westside, fifty plus people gathered at Bikerowave to hear about Bikeside’s quest for change, what each advocate has been up to, what they’ve learned and how you can get involved to make LA a safer, cyclist friendly city!
Steve Mattson introduced the venue, Bikerowave, the DIY bike shop, and its historic move from a tiny alley in Santa Monica to the flourishing neighborhood of Mar Vista. Where the hours have been elongated and the stands are rarely vacant. Where the little engine that could has become the driving engine to which many cyclists can get behind and grow from, even call home.
Ron Durgin spoke about Sustainable Streets. A program that teaches the citizens of LA how to become car-free. Ron sees no excuse for the use of a car that a bike cannot provide. And Enci Box with the LA Greensters. The only mobile movie production company that transports equipment from location to location in the LA area by bicycle. Yes! All that heavy dolly track and grip equipment, they make it happen!
Mihai Peteu introduced the LA Bike Map. A DIY interactive map that tracks and studies hit and runs, collisions, harassment, bike theft, etc. in the LA area, found on this website: http://www.bikesidela.org/category/campaigns/la-bike-map/
I even had a chance to bring everyone’s attention to the growing epidemic of hit and runs in LA. Focusing on Brandon Chau’s hit from behind while waiting at a red light in Beverly Hills, Don aka Roadblock’s horrifying late night hit from a speeding Jaguar in East LA and Louis aka Birdman’s midnight brush with death that left him in the ICU for 11 days followed by 49 days in the hospital. Louis was there to give an update on his recovery process and the pending trial for the girl who hit him. I had a chance to ask him if she had stayed instead of fleeing the scene, would it have made a difference in how he felt toward her. And I, along with the rest of the room, felt our hearts being tugged as we watched him struggle with his answer, “Yes, I would have remorse for what she is going through now if she had stayed.”
Alex Thompson introduced his fellow Bikesiders and engaged the audience in questions during the wrap-up of each presentation. And Stephen Box won the room over with his LA Cycling Trivia contests and Comedic banter to keep the punchy, rhythmic flow of the event entertaining. There was even a pizza eating contest and prizes handed out.
The event brought Bill Rosendahl and Marcy Winograd to face a firing squad of questions: “When is the change coming?” – “What are your ideas?” – “We get it’s a slow process, but what are you doing about it right now?” And of course, they made promises and pushed agendas to win the audience in their favor. None-the-less, their being at the event did what the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights has been doing across LA, opening the door for conversation. And I’m certain Bikeside will follow-up on both politicians’ ideas for change in the LA cycling community.
As the final speaker took the floor, Jeremy Grant, his inspirational speech on the Backbone Bikeway Network, gave the audience a silver lining in the dark cloud that looms over the advocacy for change within LA’s political system. His presentation expressed ill-fated times when change was needed in our country but resolution and hope seemed impossible. He brought down the house, the audience on the edge of their seats. Next slide. Next slide! Next SLIDE!
Bikeside Speaks was a success! As the doors opened, many of the audience members stayed and talked with each of us. Bringing up personal stories, questions they didn’t have a chance to ask, and even interest to help further Bikeside’s long battles in the war ahead.
And as we head back to our rooms, cubicles and balconies to talk silently and loudly through the internets, I look back on the experience with a smile. We did something better than just telling and reporting, we showed. We each gave a human to human experience, an example of what it is like to ride a bike in LA. Instead of meeting our questions within the confined space of our laptop computers, like traveling from East LA to West LA in a car, we broke the walls of communication and said hello, face to face, like traveling on a bicycle and talking with the stranger riding his bicycle while stopped at a red light.
Keep blogging and trolling. Like all publicity is good publicity, the fight found in comments keeps the conversation going, bringing awareness to the lurkers who find themselves face to face with advocates at events like Bikeside Speaks who then become inspired to help with the journey for change. And thank you, because even though it takes one person to inspire, it takes an army to Make It Happen!