LA Could Be the Next Great Cycling City

Los Angeles doesn't have a reputation as a great biking city, even though, unlike Portland, Minneapolis, or San Francisco, it's warm year round and generally pretty flat. But (transpo geek alert!) if you look at this fantastic reference guide that the National Association of City Transportation Officials put out this morning, as part of its new Urban Bikeway Design guide, you'll see that LA's Bicycle Master Plan handbook covers more ground than New York's or San Francisco's. And Long Beach, which is part of the greater LA metro area, is working to become "the most bicycle friendly urban city in the nation."

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is also getting attention for its advocacy work. The bike advocacy community is in D.C. this week for the National Bike Summit, and as part of the festivities, last night, the Alliance for Biking & Walking gave its best practices award to LACBC for its work to involve underrepresented immigrant (mostly Latino) cyclists in planning and advocacy for LA's bike system.

LACBC does this work through its City of Lights program, the goal of which is to "increase working-class Latino immigrant bicyclists’ safety and empower them to educate and spread bicycle safety information and advocacy to their communities," according to the group's website.

Arguments against bike infrastructure tend to center around the complaint that cities are reworking roads to serve a minority of the population, usually caricatured as consisting of mustachioed hipsters and reckless bike messengers. But as the LACBC's work shows, it's important to ask who's in that community. According to the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking's 2010 benchmark report, in every income bracket, about the same (admittedly small) proportion of people choose cycling as their mode of transportation. In other words, cyclists are not just entitled yuppies who eat only organic produce. And, according to the report, low-income people are more likely to cycle "for utility" -- because they have to.