LOS ANGELES —
Los Angeles is notorious for traffic jams and aggressive drivers. Devon Fitzgerald, a cyclist, is familiar with both.
“A lot of LA folks are in a rush," he said, "and it’s very easy for them to prioritize their speed over your safety.”
The city is known for its car culture because Los Angeles is spread out and public transportation is either slow or limited. As a result, people drive everywhere, causing congestion almost any time of day.
But even with an intimidating commute, Fitzgerald would still want to ride his bicycle to work.
“I like the fact that it simplifies a lot of the aspects of travel," Fitzgerald said. "For instance, I don’t have to worry about parking, ever.”
However, Roger Rosas, who drives, says bicycles are dangerous for the cyclist and the driver.
“You always have to make sure you look to the other side because you’re going to dodge this guy cause you don’t want to do a hit and run," he said. "You can also get in a car crash as a result of that.”
To make cycling safer, some bicyclists in Los Angeles, who live and work near each other, are commuting together in what's called a “bike train.”
“You’re a big enough group that cars don’t have the same behaviors as if you are just one person," said Nona Varnado, who co-founded L.A. Bike Trains. "And you’re also with an experienced cyclist.”
L.A. Bike Trains launched in May 2013 and the number of participants and routes around the city has been growing.
“We specifically design each route so we avoid problem intersections,” Varnado said.
The routes range from 7 to almost 32 kilometers long. That makes L.A. Bike Trains unique compared to other cities, says Herbie Huff, a transportation expert at University of California Los Angeles.
She says, in recent years, urban planners in L.A. have been considering more bike lanes.
“The city has added more bike lanes in the last two fiscal years than in the previous 30 fiscal years combined,” Huff said.
Varnado, of L.A. Bike Trains, prefers separated or elevated bike lanes. “I think that we should have far greater infrastructure than a few little paint lines on the street,” she said.
Huff says bike lanes provide the flexibility a bike train doesn't have.
“With anything that runs on a fixed schedule whether it’s a bike train or a train, there are only so many people that can make that schedule,” Huff said.
Varnado, of L.A. Bike Trains, says bike trains can do what a bike lane cannot.
“We want people to develop that mental sense of security and confidence by riding together in a group,” she said.
Her aim is to make it so that bike trains are an ingrained part of Los Angeles culture, where people can hop on and off, just as they would when traveling on a bus.