Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition — creating community from Sherman Oaks to downtown Los Angeles

To celebrate Bike Week LA, we’re publishing a Why You Ride series with the winners of the 2012 Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about commuting via bicycle.

Our final Golden Pedal Award winner for this week is Michael Tormey. Michael commutes from Sherman Oaks to downtown Los Angeles on his bicycle. He first began riding to work once or twice a week when raising his kids was making it hard for him to find other time to exercise.

Now he bikes to work almost every day, enjoying the sense of community he gets from meeting people along the way. During the fall and winter, when it gets dark earlier, he even gives “blinker” lights to people he sees riding without bike lights; he estimates he’s given away more than 200 bike lights over the years.

Name: Michael Tormey
Start: Sherman Oaks
End: Downtown Los Angeles
Distance: 14+ miles
Time: 75 to 90 minutes

Photo courtesy of Michael Tormey.

Michael wrote to us:

“My commute takes me through Echo Park, Silver Lake, along Sunset Boulevard, west on Hollywood Boulevard, over Cahuenga Pass and west on Ventura Boulevard to my home. It’s a fun, diverse and colorful commute, and I see and meet all types of riders and bikes.

“On my evening commute in the fall and winter, I’ve always been amazed at the number of cyclists riding without bike lights. For the last three fall and winter seasons, I have been handing out ‘blinkers’ to riders who have no lights. I have probably handed out more than 200 blinkers to fellow riders. I know it might sound weird, but I think I do it for the karma. It just makes me feel good, and makes me feel like a part of the biking community. A big thanks to Lynne Goldsmith at Metro for providing the lights over the years.”

We asked Michael what he enjoys the most about his commute, and he told us:

“Besides the exercise fix, the real enjoyment I get is seeing communities and meeting people along the way. It’s hard to have conversations on the ride, but I really like the sense of community I get from most of my interactions.

“There is the grocer at a mom-and-pop place just before Cahuenga Pass — Oak Crest Market — that always yells out, ‘Have a nice day, sir!’ when he sees me. Sometimes he will run out and give me a rolling high-five.

“The bus drivers — I like to think that over the years a number of them know me now and give me a beep of hello. I have always found them to be a friendly lot. Treat them with respect and they give you respect back. It is a tough job after all — driving in traffic all day!

“And last is a recent experience… I was riding home on Hollywood Boulevard, and all of a sudden a car door opened. I’ve only had a few mishaps over the years, but never gotten ‘doored.’ I reacted with a quick flick of the handlebar and missed getting nailed by a whisker… and fortunately the big truck running next to me in the right lane didn’t run me over either. When I got to the next stoplight, the guy in the truck looked at me. Shaking his head, he grinned and said, ‘Man, I thought you was dead! I never saw anything like it, what a move.’ Then he reached down from the cab and gave me a fist bump. I was smiling the whole way home… and even now as I write this.”

Thanks for making us smile too with your stories, Michael! We’ve sent you a very large box of chocolate-dipped Clif Mojo bars for you to share on your bicycle rides.

Categories: Bicycle, Contests, Why You Ride

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