Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition – mayor of South Pasadena, biking to work since 1977

During Bike Week LA, we collected nominations for the Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about bicycling. We’re featuring these stories in a weekly Why You Ride series – because for many Angelenos, every week is Bike Week!

Dr. Richard Schneider is an overachiever in many ways. He’s a pathologist at two hospitals — one in Hollywood, the other in Lynwood. He’s the mayor of South Pasadena. And he’s biked to work nearly every day since 1977.

Name: Dr. Richard Schneider
Start: South Pasadena
End: Hollywood and Lynwood
Distance: 10 miles (Hollywood), 17 miles (Lynwood)
Time: 35-55 minutes (Hollywood), 70-85 minutes (Lynwood)

Dr. Richard Schneider and his bicycle (plus high-visibility jacket, helmet, and lights)

Dr. Richard Schneider, mayor of South Pasadena, and his bicycle (plus high-visibility jacket, helmet, and lights)

South Pasadena City Clerk Sally Kilby nominated Dr. Schneider for a Golden Pedal Award, stating that “most others half his age couldn’t or wouldn’t push through the traffic, danger, weather, and challenges he must face.”

Dr. Schneider put it less dramatically: “I’ll tell you how I started. We used to have to work a half day during the week and a half day during the weekend, so I started riding on the half days, one or two days a week. We only had one car at the time, so I started riding my bike more often, two or three days a week. Now I ride almost every day.”

While there are bike lanes on his way to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, his route to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood has no bicycle markings at all. He simply pedals down a combination of quiet residential streets and major arterials, carefully detouring to avoid the intersection where the 710 spills onto Atlantic Boulevard (“You get ‘scissored,’” Dr. Schneider said, describing the car traffic entering and exiting the freeway).

Once he gets to the hospital, he parks his bike inside his office, cleans up with baby wipes and changes into scrubs. “Everyone knows [the bicyclists], especially at the hospital, because we save them a parking space, and parking spaces are expensive,” he joked. “In a garage, it costs up to $30,000 [to build] a space.”

After commuting by bicycle for 36 years, Dr. Schneider hasn’t been in a major accident yet, but he does have close calls “almost every day.” To stay safe, he avoids bicycling in the late evening or when it rains – “then I drive my car and sit in traffic like everyone else.”

Dr. Schneider notes that improving bicycle safety will require significant cultural and behavioral changes among U.S. drivers. For instance, he said, according to a neighbor from Denmark – a country famous for its high rates of bicycling – “when they teach young people to drive automobiles [in Denmark], one of the first things they teach is to look in their mirror before they open the door. That’s one of the big problems they have here in LA. That’s why you have to ride about five feet away from a row of parked cars here – because you don’t want to be in the door zone.”

What keeps him bicycling after all these years? “A whole constellation of reasons… I like to ride. You can keep your sanity by riding. [And there are] all these social bonuses – it saves the environment, cleans the air, lessens traffic, it’s good for exercise, good for your reputation around the hospital. When I have to drive, people say, ‘Hey, where’s your bike?’ It’s just friendly needling.”

Thanks Dr. Schneider for being such a visible advocate for safe bicycling! With help from our generous Bike Week sponsors, we’ve sent you a Nathan safety vest, RydeSafe reflective decals, Clif Bars, and a free year of bicycle roadside assistance from Better World Club.

6 replies

  1. Dr. Richard Schneider hit the nail on the head when he stated, “You can keep your sanity by riding.” Haha.

  2. Mayor Schneider is amazing. Have seen him riding his bike and for him it’s just a usual thing, not an event to brag about. Growing up knowing his family and going to school with one of his kids I didn’t know this about him at all (had learned since). He is a great choice for this.

  3. Rick Schneider, our hero, and a great role model living by example – No 710 Action Committee