To say Laura Doyle is enthusiastic about cycling is an understatement. If there’s any event involving two wheels in Long Beach, you’re going to find her there.
Laura grew up in nearby Downey but found a community she instantly fell in love with in Long Beach. With her husband and two-year-old son, she makes everyday a fun new adventure.
She isn't just notable for her contributions to LACBC's Operation Firefly and our newest chapter, Walk Bike Long Beach, but also for her passion for making Long Beach a stronger and more connected community.
You grew up in Downey during the heart of the '80s. How were things different back then?
I grew up in a very suburban, predominately-Caucasian, middle-class neighborhood. Being second generation Korean-American, I grew up in two worlds: my home life full of Korean traditions and expectations, and my life outside the home of American values and social norms. Being a part of these two cultures made my life unique growing up and especially challenging during my teenage years. I think the hardest part was not having many second generation Korean-American peers to relate with. I can count on one hand the number of Korean-American friends throughout my life in Downey. I believe there is a larger presence in the Korean community now, but back in the '80s it was very small.
Cal State Long Beach is fairly close to your home in Downey, but did attending school there change your perspective?
While in college during my undergraduate years, I worked as a college aide for the Long Beach Unified School District. My major was Liberal Studies, Human/Child Development geared towards teaching (Special Education). I was introduced to elementary schools across the city, observing children from different cultures and various socioeconomic backgrounds, a microcosm of the City of Long Beach. After graduating, I wanted to stay in Long Beach and moved to a neighborhood where I was able to walk or bike to do all my daily errands (grocery store, post office, shops, restaurants, etc). I ended up getting a teaching position with the district right out of college. After a couple years, that didn't work out, but I still stayed and got a job with the City of Long Beach. There was no way I was moving to another city, Long Beach had too much to offer. It's a big city with a small town feel.
You started cycling to work, but did it stick?
When I started working with the City of Long Beach, I started riding my bike to work a couple times a week. Luckily, downtown Long Beach has the Bikestation, a facility where I could easily store my bicycle during the day. It didn't stick because I had a low-end hybrid/mountain bike that wasn't comfortable in that it was the wrong type of bike for my city/road commute. Back then, I had no idea there were so many different types of bicycles for different purposes.
Laura had cycling in her bones even as a toddler...
Working for the City of Long Beach for almost fifteen years, you must have a lot of pride in the area.
I really do. Not only do I work here, but I also live here. Long Beach has so much to offer for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. My favorite is witnessing the diversity and acceptance of people from all walks of life. My city has everything, plus its own police, fire, and health departments. It has amazing weather, so I can be outdoors and take advantage of our city parks and beach. I look forward to sending my son through our Long Beach Unified School District. I love working, living, and playing in Long Beach.
Part of your path to cycling came from social media?
Yes, social media has opened up my path to cycling. I follow different local advocacy groups on Facebook, informing me on current cycling events and updating me on upcoming meetings or legislation in the news. Instagram has been a good source seeing all the new bicycle related accessories, specifically socks and caps. It's pretty much a "catalog" for shopping. I've also met fellow local females who like to ride bikes. It's harder to meet new friends the older I get and I found that bicycles, with the help of social media, has opened up new doors to new friends.
The joy of riding in Long Beach is getting daily views of the Queen Mary
What has Long Beach done to help make cycling more friendly?
Long Beach calls itself "the most bicycle friendly city in America." Several years ago, I started noticing protected bike lanes in downtown Long Beach area and conventional bike lanes everywhere. Today, there are multitude of organizations and events: Beach Streets, BikeFest, local rides (like the Cupid Ride by LBCycology), free bike education classes (Empact Communities), various meetings bringing all stakeholders together organized by the City Manager and/or Bikeable Communities, the LB Bike Share program, and a recent Bike Open House, an interactive event that allowed anyone to come and provide input on bicycle planning (City of Long Beach). Long Beach also has many super friendly local bike shops, like The Bicycle Stand, West River Cycles, and the Tri-Zone (technically Los Alamitos, but it's right on the border of Long Beach), that have helped me purchase new bikes, accessories, bicycle tune ups and answered all my newbie questions.
Where are your favorite places to ride in Long Beach?
I enjoy riding on most city streets, especially the small side streets lined with homes. It reminds me of my childhood. I also enjoy areas that are protected and/or car-free, like the San Gabriel River Path, Beach bike path, and Downtown Long Beach. Riding with others, either with my son behind me in his bike seat or with other friends, makes me feel a little safer.
Long Beach is an ideal place to bike, run & swim!
Long Beach has so many neighborhoods. What are some of your favorites?
I could probably find something about each neighborhood that I like. They are all so different and unique. My favorite are the ones where I can walk or bike to the local restaurants and shops. Because I currently live closer to the ocean, my favorite areas are 4th Street/Retro Row, Bluff/Belmont Heights, Downtown Long Beach, and Belmont Shore. As soon as my son's nap schedule changes, I hope to participate in Bixby Knoll's Kidical Mass rides (one of Long Beach's northern neighborhoods).
Your husband works with design and antiques. Is Long Beach a place to make great discoveries?
I believe so, Long Beach is a city rich in history. When I first met my husband in 2011, our dates were mainly to the Long Beach Antique Flea Market, local thrift stores and estate sales. He enjoys hunting for furniture and pottery while I love searching through jewelry. He has a really good eye and made a business out of it called Timothy Doyle Design.
You’re involved with volunteering beyond cycling?
Yes, I'm a believer of serving the local community. I feel like I need to be a part of creating a future environment that is better for me, my family and everyone in the community. I regularly volunteer with Leadership Long Beach, a local non-profit organization that brings together Long Beach leaders from all sectors of the community (private, public, non-profit, community). Also, I recently joined the Board of Directors with The Heart of Ida, a local non-profit organization that serves the older people of Long Beach. I'm excited to somehow combine my love of bicycles with the older population that The Heart of Ida serves.
If there's an Operation Firefly in Long Beach, you'll find Laura there.
How did your approach to cycling change after your son was born?
When I started cycling again after having my son, I found it hard to find people to ride with. With most cycling groups/clubs organizing rides later in the morning, I could only ride/exercise early in the morning usually starting at sunrise. Social media allowed me to meet new friends and people to ride with. After having my son, my hips and knees changed so I had start running again at a slower pace and distance. Cycling helped me be a stronger runner. Because I know how to swim, I also added swimming in the mix and completed my first triathlon last year, the Long Beach Triathlon (sprint distance). I'm not an indoor gym person and found Long Beach to be a perfect place to train outdoors for all three sports.
Lastly, where do you see Long Beach and cycling in another 10 years?
I hope to see people on bicycles as a norm. I still feel like it's a me-vs-them (people who drive cars) atmosphere. I drive a car too but love being on a bicycle. Others should experience this love too. I hope to see more bike lanes, especially with connections from the north end of Long Beach to downtown and the ocean. I hope to see more lanes in all parts of Long Beach, especially the neighborhoods that have more people on bicycles. One thing I experienced while distributing lights with LACBC's Operation Firefly is that areas with the most people on bikes I witnessed were in the disadvantaged lower-income neighborhoods. Not everyone can drive cars, but people still need to get from place to place, whether it's by foot, bike, or bus. Everyone in our community, young and old, should be able to walk in our streets and ride around our neighborhoods safely. In another 10 years, I see Long Beach as a more walkable, bikeable and "swimmable" city. In today's society, where smart phones and televisions keep people inside, cycling (and walking and swimming) brings people out and life into neighborhoods.