By Edwin Folven, 5/18/2011
‘Bike to Work’ Day Promotes Alternative Transportation
Don your helmets and bike to work — or school — today and tomorrow for “Bike to Work Day” on May 19, and “Bike to School Day” on May 20.
The events are part of the citywide “Bike Week L.A.” celebrations, which promote cycling as a way to alleviate traffic congestion and to improve personal health.
The events are being coordinated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), in cooperation with cities throughout Los Angeles County including Los Angeles and West Hollywood. Bicycle “pit stops” for riders will be held throughout the county on May 19. Metro and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation are also offering free rides on May 19 to bicyclists on buses and rail lines, including DASH and Commuter Express Service lines. The celebration was launched on Tuesday during the annual “Blessing of the Bicycles” at Good Samaritan Hospital, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, joined hundreds of cyclists for a blessing by spiritual leaders.
“I’d like to encourage Angelenos to get out of their cars and on their bikes to go to work, and send the message that cycling is a great way to get around the city,” Villaraigosa said.
Andy Leeka, the president and CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital, said 2011 marks the eighth year the hospital has held the blessing, and added that it is a way to promote safety among cyclists. Leeka added that last year, 716 cyclists were killed in accidents and collisions nationwide.
“It’s just really to bring awareness about bicycle safety. It is critical that we make it safer for bicylists, and let people know that cyclists and motorists can coexist,” Leeka said. “I am a big believer in the benefits of cycling, and the need for people to watch out for each other on the roads.”
The City of West Hollywood is joining in the festivities by hosting a pit stop at the corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevards from 6 to 9 a.m., where rides can get free coffee, maps and information on cycling and safety. Chris Corrao, an assistant planner for the City of West Hollywood said the pit stop is one way the city is encouraging cycling as alternative transportation. Corrao added that the city is also currently working on expanding its network of bike lanes.
Paula Carvajal, a “Bike Week L.A.” coordinator for Metro, said approximately 4,500 cyclists are expected to participate, but officials hope the number will be much higher.
“Overall, only one percent of commuters are cyclists, so we would like to increase that number, but we have a long way to go,” Carvajal said.
Carvajal also encouraged people to visit www.metro.net to get a list of pit stops and to take a pledge to bike to work or school. People who take the pledge by May 20 are eligible for prizes.
LaBonge said he regularly rides a bike, and added that it is a great form of exercise. He also cautioned motorists to be mindful of cyclists during the busy rush hour commutes on May 19 and 20.
“It is so important,” LaBonge added. “But you’ve got to be safe, and that goes for both the drivers and the bicyclists.”