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SPECIAL ISSUE: SHAPING L.A.

'Activist by default'

January 07, 2008|Jeannine Stein

Monica Howe

Age: 32

Occupation: Outreach manager for the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition

Why she matters: Has made Los Angeles' streets more accommodating for cyclists and, in the process, encouraged riders to discover -- or rediscover -- the sport.

Howe never planned on being an advocate for bicycle riders, but since moving to Los Angeles from Dallas about 11 years ago and getting immersed in local bike culture, she's become a face and a voice for cyclists in the city, working on increasing bike-safe zones, campaigning for cycling-related legislation and educating drivers about bike safety.

"I guess I'm an activist by default because . . . what's the phrase . . . 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' I just believe in certain things," says Howe of her work with the coalition, a nonprofit organization with campaigns, programs and resources that support bike advocacy and education.

Her belief in safer city streets for bicyclists has led her recently to work on establishing a pilot program involving "sharrows," or painted signs on the road meant to help improve lane positioning of cyclists and motorists. Other projects include working on a grant to establish a bikeable loop through Glendale. "If we can create more bikeable models around L.A.," says Howe, formerly a photographer, "hopefully L.A. will eventually give in and be more bikey" and accommodating to cyclists.

"We need to be looking for alternatives [to cars] and making them attractive and feasible," says Howe. "If we all know that traffic's a problem and air quality is a problem, then why aren't we being more creative about the solutions?"

As a volunteer for the Bicycle Kitchen, a nonprofit L.A. group offering workshops on bike repair and maintenance, Howe works to foster the community feeling among cyclists. "I'm somebody a lot of people can identify with," she adds. "I'm not crazy fit, and I'm not totally obsessed, and people need to see that this is something they can do too."

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