[Update 12/3: Corrected Herbie’s affiliation. She’s employed by the Institute of Transportation Studies, not the Luskin Center. I have a hard time keeping all the various UCLA Luskin School research centers straight, seeing as they fund all sorts of joint initiatives and are all housed in the same building — oftentimes in the same rooms.]
L.A. Bike Trains is a great concept created by my friends Nona Varnado and Bruce Chan in which people commute by bike together on fixed routes and at fixed times. The idea is to have experienced commuters lead the ride so that beginners can see how it’s done and have someone there to deal with any unforeseen issues — flats, mechanicals, etc.
Even more fantastic: NPR did a segment on L.A. Bike Trains for the weekend edition of All Things Considered! There’s an interview with Nona as well as some of the conductors and commuters. Another friend of mine, Herbie Huff of the UCLA
Luskin Center for Innovation Institute of Transportation Studies, puts a little bit of a damper on the boosterism, arguing that protected bike lanes and bike sharing systems will probably do more to make bicycling accessible to non-enthusiasts. She’s absolutely right, but I still think the Bike Trains idea is useful for helping people who already own bikes get over their fears and see just how far their bikes can take them. When I started riding as an adult about four years ago, for example, one of the ways I got comfortable riding on busier streets was by riding with groups. Before long, I was commuting up and down Westwood Boulevard between my apartment in Palms and the UCLA campus, taking the lane when needed.
Anyway, there was one interview in the story — that of Los Angeles resident Jackie Burke — that really got under my skin, as well as many other people’s, no doubt. Not only does she talk about being annoyed by bicyclists; she admits to having intentionally driven dangerously close to them when she felt like they were getting in her way. This goes beyond the usual troglodyte comments we hear from random anti-cyclists on the internet; this woman is openly admitting to having menaced and assaulted random strangers for daring to cause her a few seconds’ delay.
I sent the editors of ATC a response via NPR’s listener feedback form. You can read it here in its entirety: