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Live to Ride, Ride to Live

A Bike Shop With a Recipe for Mobility

November 02, 2003|ANDREW JOHN IGNATIUS VONTZ

If Jimmy Lizama had his way, the fossil-fuel-burning monsters clogging our streets would be relegated to the junkyard while Angelenos savor the city's beauty and climate on bicycles. "I want to help working-class people who want to go to the market on their bikes instead of driving 10 miles to go to a store," says the proprietor of Kill Your Car Courier service and a founding member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition advocacy group.

When Lizama gets up in the morning, he commutes on one of his four bikes to downtown, where he spends his days pedaling subpoenas to areas as far away as East L.A. and Hollywood. Lizama often organizes events for couriers, including a recent scavenger hunt and race that traced the route of Michael Douglas' character in the 1993 movie "Falling Down." "I want to get regular folks biking to work," says Lizama, 28. "My goal is to get bicycle culture going." And he's doing just that with his extracurricular venture, the Bicycle Kitchen.

On Tuesday and Thursday nights, still soaked in sweat from a day on wheels, Lizama pedals to the Kitchen, a bicycle repair co-op he created two years ago with fellow courier Randy Metz and freelance photographer Ben Guzman. The operation is crammed into the kitchen of an empty unit in the two-block Eco-Village cooperative near Koreatown, an endeavor sponsored by nonprofit funding and devoted to ecologically sustainable community development. The Kitchen is outfitted with four work stands and every tool an aspiring bike mechanic could need. Hanging in the front room in various states of repair are about 20 found and donated bikes being refurbished for use by rideless Kitchen users.

Neighborhood kids, professionals, couriers, environmentalists, students and blue-collar workers are among those who regularly drop in to learn how to work on their rigs, share expertise and revel in all things cycling-related in a laid-back, learning-friendly atmosphere where the toilet paper in the bathroom hangs on a stand made from a discarded bike fork surrounded by piles of the defunct cycling magazine Winning. It's a far cry from the shaved-leg snobbery of bike shops that cater to affluent customers and racers. "People can watch someone who knows how to fix a bike, observe the process, and learn how to do it instead of going to a bike shop and paying too much money and not learning anything," says Lizama, who worked in an art gallery before becoming a messenger.

An all-bike Los Angeles isn't the only thing cooking in the Kitchen. The last Tuesday of the month, Lizama whips up a fresh batch of dough and bakes pizza for all present. L.A. may not yet be a cycler's paradise, but all believers are welcome to a slice of the pie.

*

The Bicycle Kitchen, 117 Bimini Place, #110, is open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.; (213) 386-1002, www.bicyclekitchen.com. Parking in the area is extremely limited, and driving is discouraged.

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