Hop on a bike train to work! If you’re looking for a new way to commute, LA Bike Trains has been up and running since May this year.
Bike trains are group bicycle rides that make scheduled stops for bicycle commuters to join in along the way. According to LA Bike Trains, they “harness the safety of riding in a group while kicking it up a notch by making the ride a fun social experience.”
“Conductors” with LA Bike Trains lead weekly rides along eight routes that crisscross Los Angeles County. The conductors keep the ride moving at a moderate pace and help fix any problems that come up, like a flat tire. They also offer a “Special Valet Service” to help you navigate from your home to a bike train meeting point. And unlike a traditional train, rides are free.
“Most participants are completely new to commuting by bike,” said Nona Varnado, LA Bike Trains co-founder. “Bike trains aren’t fast or competitive. They’re for people with jobs, just trying to get to work while having fun and being healthy.”
Nona started LA Bike Trains after she moved to Los Angeles and felt “overwhelmed by car culture, giant multi-lane streets”:
“I was having a hard time figuring out how to get places: by car, public transport or biking. I wanted to know how I could get around without being stuck in traffic, stuck with a public transport system that doesn’t fully connect to places I need to go, at the right times. Biking is a wonderful way to get around, but navigating these streets can be daunting – then I discovered that LA has an incredible ‘social’ biking scene.”
Nona found that riding in a group made bicycling significantly less intimidating for her. Friends in New York City had organized bike trains and she thought that doing something similar in LA could be “a turning point in getting people on bikes.”
Fellow co-founder Bruce Chan and Nona built a network of conductors through their work with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Orange 20 Bikes, and other bicycle advocates. “Our conductors are all amazing, dedicated people who have put in a lot of hours from setting up Google Groups and communications protocols, to having ridden their routes over and over again to make sure they can guide people of all abilities,” she said.
Their vision is to grow LA Bike Trains until anyone “regardless of gender, race, income or neighborhood can comfortably consider an LA Bike Train route an equally viable commuting option to driving, the bus, or the train,” said Nona.
For those still on the fence, Nona notes that bicycling is environmentally friendly, healthy, inexpensive, and actually pretty easy — “far more so than dealing with parking.” Touché.