Is a bicycle a form of transportation or a tool to interpret our relation with space?
We all think of cycling as a way to get from point to point, but not often are we made aware of your environment when we’re riding.
Jenny Morataya is a cyclist like us all, but growing up in Glendale near the L.A. River has given her a different perspective.
Living in a city with a suburban layout, hiking the mountains and enjoying all the open space around the river are some of the factors that led to pursuing her studies in Geography.
At the same time, she discovered not just how versatile a bike is, but how it allows a city to function differently.
As Jenny prepares for next month’s Climate Ride, we catch up with her to see how her journey has evolved.
You moved from El Salvador to Glendale when you were five and have lived in the same place almost the entire time. What would you say characterizes Glendale?
Although it’s most famous for Glendale Galleria and The Americana, Glendale is so much more than just malls. The north part of the city is surrounded by beautiful scenery with wonderful trails for hiking and biking. Glendale is also known for its diversity, which brings a variety of delicious cuisines found across the city. Porto’s potato meatballs anyone?
Making Glendale better for cycling is a family affair.
What was the most fascinating part of being a Geography major?
I always tell people that there’s more to Geography than just maps and memorizing capitals! Geography literally means “earth description” and is an all-encompassing discipline with many branches used to make sense of our marvelous planet. It’s fascinating to study places as well as the relationships between people and their environment. Sometimes this means observing the physical landscape while other times it requires us to analyze the cultural significance of a region.
What got you into cycling?
My growing frustration with parking at Glendale Community College is the reason I started biking more often. Even after paying for an expensive permit, I’d still have to spend over half an hour looking for a parking spot. One day, I just decided to bike to school and soon realized it was cheaper and faster than driving… with added health benefits of stress relief and exercise.
You’ve long been an active member of Walk Bike Glendale. How did you get involved?
I was on my way to class at Glendale Community College and saw Walk Bike Glendale’s information table in the middle of the quad. Intrigued by the name, I stopped to check them out and we chatted about wanting safer streets and more bike lanes. They mentioned the City of Glendale would soon be having an event to get public input about cycling and pedestrian safety. As a 19 year old, I had never been to a community outreach meeting, so even the idea of public speaking made me anxious. Although I stuttered and probably didn’t speak loud enough, I tried to genuinely voice my concerns about wanting better biking infrastructure and pedestrian access around the college. Soon after, I joined WBG’s Steering Committee as the GCC Liaison and helped coordinate events and install more bike racks on campus.
Jenny and the Walk Bike Glendale team.
What type of potential does Glendale hold for cycling?
Glendale has gained quite a lot of momentum recently. In just two years, it has seen a big wave of new restaurants, a wonderful comeback by the Alex Theater, the opening of the Museum of Neon Art, the addition of a new park (Central Park Paseo), and most noticeably the sudden surge of lofts and apartments near the downtown. Now more than ever, would be a perfect time to design our streets to be bike and pedestrian friendly! As the city gets denser, we should encourage people to walk and ride their bikes for short-distance trips, such as going to the post office or picking up groceries.
How did living close to the L.A. River change your relationship interacting with the environment?
I grew up a block away from the Verdugo Wash tributary of the L.A River; to be honest though, I only saw it as an ugly flood control channel. While doing a research project at Cal State LA, I learned about Friends of the Los Angeles River and their vision of having the river be a continuous greenway through Los Angeles. Since then, I’ve volunteered as a docent and worked at the Frog Spot last summer to educate visitors on the river’s history and start a dialogue on how the river can become an essential and vibrant part of LA.
Training with Team LACBC looks like hard work….
Now working for an infrastructure firm, does it combine all your favorite interests?
Yes. Interning and now working at Cordoba Corp. has provided real-world exposure to some of the things I studied and read about in school, such as the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program, the California High-Speed Rail, and Metro rail projects. I have definitely learned a lot and am grateful to be a part of a company that is working on some of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in the state.
How did Burning Man impact your perspective on cycling?
The experience of biking at Burning Man was the first time I had navigated through a space without cars (except art cars), which made me feel incredibly free and happy. The best thing I could compare it to is the early mornings at CicLAvia events before it gets too crowded. Or perhaps the Marathon Crash Ride, but without the racing. Seeing people decorate their bikes and having fun on pedal-powered machines made me realize that many more people would ride their bicycles if our city roads were designed with cyclists and pedestrians in mind.
Where are some of your favorite places to ride around Glendale?
I love riding my bike to the Catalina Verdugo Adobe, which is a historic landmark nestled at the base of the Verdugo Hills in a residential neighborhood of north Glendale. It’s a quiet and tranquil space I go to when I need a break from the busy world.
The Glendale Narrows section of the LA River Bike Path is scenic and always enjoyable to ride. It’s nice to be away from cars, but watch out for joggers and four-legged friends!
I hike the Beaudry Loop Trail all the time, but am too intimidated to go mountain biking… maybe one day.
Training up Signal Hill for the L.A. River Ride
Now that you’ve recently moved to Hollywood, what are the noticeable differences?
People in Hollywood walk, bike, and take public transportation more than in Glendale. Since the Metro Red Line is fully underground, it wasn’t until I started riding it to work that I realized how many people use it daily to get to their jobs and go about their day. I’m just a ten minute walk from the Hollywood & Highland stop and look forward to using it more.
This is your first Climate Ride. What excites you most about it?
I am beyond thrilled to be doing my first long distance bike ride. it’s something I’ve dreamed about for years. The route along the California Coast is beautiful and it’ll be a wonderful experience to bike along the ocean for hours on end, especially when entering that ‘flow’ state of mind. There is a fantastic camaraderie on Team LACBC and I’m looking forward to having a good time with some really great people.