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DRIVER'S ED. | Commuter Savvy

Pedal Pushers Aim to Steer Southland Drivers to Bicycle to Work


In Southern California, the personal vehicle rules the roads, whether SUV or pickup, compact or mid-size, sporty or luxury. This is car country.

But with generations of people from high school juniors to senior citizens getting behind the wheel, the asphalt is a bit crowded. ComCycling Online

* Check out Highway 1's home page for bicycle links, telephone hotlines and tips for preparing for Bike to Work Day. Just point your browser to:

muting without a vehicle is antithetical to some Southern Californians, but several organizations and agencies have been trying to encourage residents to loosen their grip on the steering wheel and turn their drive to work into a ride on a bus, train or bike.

Among them is the California Bicycle Coalition, which hopes to encourage commuters to ride on two wheels to work at least one day a year. The nonprofit group is organizing its fifth annual California Bike Commute Week next month to promote the bicycle as an everyday mode of transportation.

From May 17-21, communities and companies throughout the state will sponsor events. Although specific days are designated Bike to Work Day in different regions, the group hopes commuters will opt to pedal at least one day during that week.


For Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the designated day is May 20. Various organizations, public agencies and private employers are sponsoring activities called "pit stops" (or "energizer stations" in the Bay Area). Some of the participants in the Los Angeles area are UCLA; Walt Disney Co.; Long Beach Bikestation; and Aerospace Corp., Raytheon and Hughes Electronics, whose joint event is expected to be among the largest pit stops in the area.

With less than a month to go, many participants are still planning activities. As in years past, pit stops will include giveaways, refreshments, information booths and opportunities for bike commuters to mingle.

Those who register for the effort can win prizes such as plane tickets. But registration isn't required to participate in the ride.

The bicycle coalition, a nonprofit organization based in the Bay Area, organized the initial statewide event in 1995 to raise its profile and that of scattered regional events, said K.C. Butler, the group's statewide coordinator.

This year, about 13,000 to 15,000 people are expected to participate. In 1995, 6,000 to 7,000 commuters rode to work, Butler said.

The strongest participation is expected to be in the Bay Area and San Diego, with about 4,000 riders each. Butler projects that about 2,500 will participate in the Los Angeles area.


In terms of city infrastructure for bicycle commuters, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, among others, has been trying to make it easier for cyclists. The city agency is building bike paths that it hopes will one day stretch from the Ventura County line to Long Beach and is working to provide employers with bicycle lockers and racks. The department also plans to install 10 emergency call boxes this summer along bike and pedestrian paths, said Michelle Mowery, the agency's bicycle coordinator.

But in some respects, the overall effort has been like pedaling up a steep grade in third gear.

Unlike other metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and New York, Los Angeles isn't thought of as bicycle-friendly.

"People don't think they can ride a bike in L.A.," Mowery said. And to some degree, she said, they're right.

With motorists fighting one another for their patch of asphalt, there seems to be precious little room for cyclists.

Butler and Mowery hope that through events such as Bike to Work Day, more local commuters will get involved in bicycle commuting and efforts to build supporting infrastructure.

And with several weeks to go, we sedan- and SUV-bound Southlanders have time to research routes and condition our bikes and bodies for the ride to work.

* For information about California Bike Commute Week, call (800) 679-2453. To register online, click on and follow the links. Another good source for general information is the Southern California Rideshare hotline, (800) COMMUTE.


Michelle Maltais can be reached at

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