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Bicycling to Work Gains Popularity in Los Angeles

People in Los Angeles are known for their love of cars. The city is very large, and its public transportation is either slow or limited. So people drive everywhere. Traffic can be heavy all day. But now, a growing group of bicyclists are trying to get people out of their cars and on bikes.

Devon Fitzgerald is a bicyclist. He says he has to be careful when he is riding his bike on the streets of Los Angeles.

“A lot of LA folks are in a rush, and it’s very easy to, for them to prioritize their speed over your safety.”

But although his bike ride to work can be dangerous, he prefers it over a car.

“I like the fact that it simplifies a lot of aspects of travel. For instance, I don’t have to worry about parking ever.”

Roger Rosas drives to work. He says bicycles are dangerous for cyclists and drivers.

“There’s, you always have to make sure you look to the other side because if you’re gonna dodge this guy, see, cause you don’t want to do a hit and run. You can also get in a car crash as a result of that.”

To make cycling safer, some bicyclists who live and work near each other are riding to work together in what they call a “bike train.” Nona Varnado helped created the group L.A. Bike Trains.

“You’re a big enough group that, you know, cars don’t, kind of have the same behaviors if you were just one person. And you’re also with an experienced cyclist.”

L.A. Bike Trains was launched in May 2013. The number of people riding in the bike trains -- and the number of routes around the city -- have been growing.

“We specifically design each route so that we avoid problem intersections.”

The routes range from seven to almost 32 kilometers long.

Herbie Huff is a transportation expert at the University of California Los Angeles. She says in recent years, city planners in Los Angeles have been putting more bike lanes on roads that were designed for cars and trucks.

“The city has added more bike lanes in the last two fiscal years than in the previous 30 fiscal years combined.”

Ms. Huff says bike lanes give cyclists options that they do not have with bike trains.

“With anything that runs on a fixed schedule -- whether it’s a bike train or a train – there’s only so many people that can make that schedule.”

Nona Varnado, of L.A. Bike Trains, says there should be bike lanes that are separated from car lanes.

“I think that we should have far greater infrastructure than a few little paint lines on the street.”

And she says bike trains can do what a bike lane cannot.

“We want people to develop that mental sense of security and confidence by riding together in a group.”

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