LACBC is made up from a broad base of supporters. For Bike Month, we wanted to showcase some of the many people that form our community, and LACBC Everywhere was born! During May, LACBC will be profiling a dozen people from all around L.A. County to show how life and bicycles mix! #LACBCeverywhere
The San Fernando Valley contains 1.8 million residents, which as a whole would make the region the 5th largest city in the United States. Growing up in this suburban expanse can give you a partial perspective of Los Angeles, something Erika Moreno discovered in her childhood.
Exploring Los Angeles by bicycle not only gave Erika a new outlook on the city but also a different understanding how communities interact. Now finishing off her first year at UC San Diego and preparing for Climate Ride as part of Team LACBC later this month, Erika shares her story how cycling shaped her life.
When you think of the San Fernando Valley, what comes to mind?
When I think of the San Fernando Valley, I think of the San Fernando Mission, CSUN, and family parities in North Hollywood. My parents had me when they were students at CSUN and we spent much of my childhood moving around the Valley, from Mission Hills to Reseda. Some of my favorite places would include the Mission and my great grandmother’s house in North Hollywood.
How did growing up in the Valley originally shape your thinking about Los Angeles?
I always perceived the rest of Los Angeles as this far away place that took forever to get to. Then again, everything seems bigger than it really is when you’re young. I did have family in East and South L.A., but we would rarely ever go to visit because my parents didn’t trust the neighborhoods.
It wasn’t until you started taking public transportation when you started seeing the city in a different light?
When my cousin introduced me to the trains in high school, my whole world shifted. I began to see the rest of L.A. as this giant playground to explore. From Pasadena to the alleys in Downtown to Hollywood. Growing up in the Valley started to feel like a bubble as I noticed many of my Valley friends didn’t care as much as I did to cross the Santa Monica mountains from time to time.
Riding a bike just became an extension of this discovery?
Absolutely! I would ride my bike at first because I didn’t have a car and it was my only source of independence to get around L.A. But then I started riding for the fun of it and I began to realize how different the world looks on a bike, compared to being in a car or walking. Riding over the bridges near downtown were - and still are - an exhilarating experience for me. The LA skyline is breathtaking!
How did you start building your confidence riding on the road?
Honestly, I’ve always been a little fearless in my exploring techniques. It was hard and a little scary at first, being this small 17-year-old girl riding her father’s mountain bike everywhere. But I knew riding on the street was better and didn’t really think someone would actually hit me. When I finally got a road bike, I let loose and biked everywhere and anywhere!
What did you learn about the community while interning at LACBC?
I was definitely pleased to see how so many people were organizing all across Los Angeles for cycling advocacy and better bike infrastructure. To see how passionate people were for a cause that seeks to transform L.A. for the better was exciting and I definitely wanted to take part in one way or another. The biggest thing that I’ve always appreciated about the LACBC is how in the process of making L.A. a fun, healthy, and safe place to ride a bike. It also acts to create a sense of unity and connectedness within L.A.’s diverse cycling community.
What got you interested in studying Environmental Engineering?
I grew up loving the environment and appreciating nature, especially during the 5 years I spent living in Cleveland, Ohio. I also loved the math and sciences and explored the idea of becoming an engineer when I heard that there were few minority females in the profession. I never thought I could pursue a career that meshed the two until I found out that UCSD had an environmental engineering program. It was definitely a perfect match for me.
How is it exploring a whole new city by bike now that you live in La Jolla?
At first, it was really tough, especially considering the climbs out here are a challenge. But once I got the hang of it, taking time out of my hectic study schedule to ride was the perfect escape. Not only did I get to explore my surroundings, but the type of people I met along the way were also eye opening. It was interesting to see how cycling can take on a whole different image depending on where you’re riding.
What else do you do in your free time around classes?
I figure this is the only time in my life I’ll ever live in La Jolla, and UCSD has some pretty cool perks for students. To take advantage, I’ve started learning how to surf, going to the rock climbing gym, and occasionally I’ll help a friend of mine run her radio show at KSDT, the school radio station.
Erica's cousin, Jocie, is a frequent ride along partner.
This is going to be your first Climate Ride. Do you think you’re up to the challenge?
I think all the riding I’ve ever done has led me to this moment. I love challenging myself to push a littler harder and go a little further with each ride I go on. After doing this for about 5 years, it will be great to see how I’ll be able to manage riding over 300 miles in 5 days.
How excited are you to discover the Northern part of this state at Climate Ride?
Again, having a passion for the environment and sustainability, I can’t wait to have my breath taken away by the stunning scenery we’re expected to pass on the trip. From giant trees to riding the coast for 100 miles. I can’t say I know what to expect since I’ve never been anywhere past the Golden Gate Bridge, but I’m ready to enjoy every second of it.
After classes, what do you expect to do for your summer break?
I’m looking for a summer job related to my career, but I’m also hoping to travel. Like my career choice, I’m looking to combine the two by finding a summer job in a city I’ve never been to. I would like to visit Portland or perhaps Seattle. Though, if I can find something in L.A. or San Diego, I would gladly take the position.
Thanks to Erica for taking time to answer some questions. You can support her on Climate Ride later this month by donating here.