There are no boundaries defining who can be a cycling advocate.
Last year when a group of Silver Lake residents discussed the Rowena Avenue road diet at a town hall, the voice that gave the audience the most clarity came from 11-year old Matlock Grossman.
His speech highlighting the need to make the streets safe for everybody not only struck a nerve in his neighborhood, but also made waves across the whole city.
Matlock loves riding his bike and continues to promote safe streets for everyone.
Still, biking around Los Angeles can be challenging and Matlock shares his thoughts about what it's like to ride around as a kid:
I like hearing my parents’ stories about riding their bikes to a friend’s house, but biking as a kid in Los Angeles you find there are only a handful of places to ride your bike in a safe environment. CicLAvia is one and bike paths, such as the L.A. River Bike Path, are another.
When I watch E.T. or Stranger Things and see kids biking around, I always think that this kind of freedom is unaccessible now. A little bit of freedom as a kid will prepare children across L.A. for the responsibilities they will experience later in life.
So yes, biking to school is an option, but a lot of my friends are scared. I realize that a lot of parents don’t want to let their kid ride to school because it seems safer to drive. That is understandable. It seems safer to be encased in two tons of metal than to be on a bike, but statistics show that it is actually safer to ride your bike to school than to be driven.
And even if my friends all rode to school, there wouldn’t be a place to put a bunch of bikes. At some public schools across the country (and some in the UK as well), kids are not allowed to ride their bikes to school because there is nowhere to put them. If public schools had bike racks more kids would definitely ride. Also, another way to get kids to ride to school is if there were more protected bike lanes.
Biking is good because it gives kids a good sense of freedom and quite frankly, rebelliousness. It is great exercise and gets kids to develop good traffic safety skills. If parents got their kids hooked on cycling early on, it will probably turn into a very healthy lifelong habit.
Riding in L.A. can be dangerous. There are so many people driving while on their phones or not paying attention to the road at all. But if more people rode bikes, especially kids going to school, it would take cars off the road reducing traffic and cutting down on emissions.
If ten percent of the people who drive instead rode their bikes, there would be a considerable decrease in traffic. Also, less people driving would make much safer streets for all of us. We need to turn biking back into an everyone activity, not just something a few people do.
Riding a bike in L.A. could help kids in our city so much. If more kids rode today, it would bring back the kind of personal independence that my parents’ generation experienced.
So how do you ride to school in L.A.? First you find a route. You should try this route out on a Sunday morning when there are less cars, so you can gauge how long it takes and to see if you like it. If there is a bike lane near your school try to use it! Once you find a good route, find a good school day to ride and just go for it!
Have your parents ride with you and maybe they’ll remember what it’s like to be a kid again. Even a small act like riding to school helps our city.
Don't forget to join LACBC Family on Saturday, September 24th, at 11:00 a.m. as we ride out of Atwater Village.