Bike to the future for Carmageddon II

September 13, 2012 

Dan Dabek, left, and Jim Shanman are organizing community bike rides on Carmageddon II weekend.

At the end of Back to the Future, Doc coolly tells Marty “where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” before donning shades and peeling out to the sequel in a flying DeLorean.

We’re not there yet. But Los Angeles’s real-life sequel, Carmageddon II, gives L.A. a chance to prove that where we’re going, we don’t need a major freeway—at least for one weekend.

With a large segment of the 405 set to close completely during the last weekend of September, local cycling advocates are seizing the opportunity to promote their favorite driving alternative. With support from Metro, they’re organizing two “Bike Carmageddon” group rides, one on the Westside and one in the San Fernando Valley—the areas most affected by the closure.

Jim Shanman, founder of Walk ‘n Rollers and a member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, is the main organizer of the Westside Ride.

“We want to get to people that wouldn’t otherwise be riding,” said Shanman. “This is a great way for families to get out safely with a group—there are certified trainers and no one will be left behind.”

Local officials announced the rides on Tuesday, while promoting the upcoming closure as an opportunity for people to engage with their local communities. The bike rides are just part of what’s on tap. Many businesses are offering special discounts and the art community is preparing “Artmageddon,” a region-wide art celebration that’s accessible by foot, bike and rail. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum and the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits will offer half-price admission for those who use alternative transportation to get there.

“Stay out of the car completely if you can avoid it,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents most of the affected region. “Stay local, play local, eat local, use the bike, and you’ll have a much better weekend.”

Dan Dabek, organizer of the San Fernando Valley bike ride and director of Cyclists Initiating Change through Live Exchange, or C.I.C.L.E., said bicycles and organized rides help people get a new perspective on where they live.

“The point is to show people that they can still get around their cities without getting in their cars,” said Dabek. “You connect with your city more, you can see what events are going on, visit new places and meet new people.”

The Westside Ride begins Saturday, September 29, with a kick-off party at 8:30 a.m. The 22-mile main ride will embark from Culver City Expo Station at 9 a.m. Along the path of the main ride, shorter rides will be held in Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica, and between Westwood and Santa Monica and Westwood and Culver City.

The 8-mile Metro Orange Line Valley Ride takes place Sunday, September 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Riders will meet in the park-and-ride lot of the Balboa Orange Line Station, at 6338 Balboa Boulevard in Encino. The family-friendly, leisurely ride will traverse part of the Orange Line bike path, making stops at the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Center and the Japanese Garden before circling back to the Encino Farmers’ Market.

Both rides are free. Minors are required to wear a helmet and be accompanied by a parent or guardian and kids under 8 should use a tag-a-long, bike trailer, tandem or other safe device.

For bike activists, the underlying goal of these events is to alter daily transportation habits in the long term, even if the changes are incremental.

“They don’t have to jump in all at once,” Dabek said of new cyclists. “We are showing people how to go to the coffee shop, go to the grocery store or even bicycle to work once a week.”

With the busiest freeway in the country out of commission, Carmageddon II might be the right time to start. Shanman, of the Walk ‘n Rollers, said brand new bike infrastructure is popping up “seemingly every week,” but sometimes people need a little push to start using it.

“L.A.is such a car-centric city,” said Shanman. “We are finding that there are a lot of people that want to try out that infrastructure, but aren’t sure how to do it. This is an opportunity to get over that hump.”

Posted 9/13/12

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