Los Angeles, USA: "It could be the best biking city in the world."
01.07.2023 | Out and about in ...
Cargo bikes are still a rare sight in LA, but a small community is beginning to discover how good it can feel to no longer be stuck in traffic. At the forefront: Michael Schneider and his Load 75.
Hi Michael, you recently biked to LAX, Los Angeles International Airport – on a Cargo Bike, with luggage and three children. What was that like?
It was a great experience. The kids didn’t complain or get nauseous like they sometimes do in the car, and my 2 year old even took a nap in the bike. We got some fresh air and were able to move a bit before the flight. Just awesome.
How long did it take?
It was just under an hour, door-to-door. We live near West Hollywood. While driving to the airport may have been about 15 minutes faster, once you reach the airport, all the time saved would have been eaten up again stuck in traffic in the horseshoe.
Doing that ride with children, luggage and suitcases sounds rather complicated. What was your setup?
It was ambitious, yes. I had my three kids in the front of the Load 75 and a Burley utility trailer in the back with a large suitcase and a car seat bungee’d on top of it. It made the bike setup quite long but still very doable. My wife also had an e-bike with another trailer with a carry-on bag on that. It took a little bit of time at the airport, because I had to deconstruct everything and lock it all together. I also brought a cover, although I’ve never had a theft issue at LAX, so it was mostly to protect everything from dust/dirt. Terminal 6 has a good covered area for bike parking, and the best thing about it, it’s free for as long as you want!
Why don’t you go by car?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. If you’re from here, you are told at a very young age that a car is needed to get around everywhere. It’s just part of the culture. That was me for many years, too. I would embarrassingly drive two blocks to the grocery store and then complain that there isn’t enough parking… but everything changed about 10 years ago.
For several reasons, I dusted off a bicycle and started to see if I could get around town just for a week and not die. By day two I was completely addicted to the way I felt on the bike, both mentally and physically. I couldn’t believe I was never in traffic and I never had to look for parking – the two biggest complaints of people living here. Eventually, after a year of transformation, I only used the bicycle to get around.
» We need the infrastructure that matches the potential «
In your opinion, why aren’t more people using bikes to get around in LA?
It all comes down to the infrastructure. If we had safe bike lanes and a little imagination, Los Angeles could be the best bicycle city in the world! It has some of the best weather of any city, it’s relatively flat and the average car trip every day is only 3 miles or less. All that’s missing is infrastructure that makes people feel like they’re not going to die trying to bike around town.
What made you choose the Load 75 HS?
I have three kids, so I need a large Box, then the 20mph speed limit on Class 1 bikes was too slow for me and LA’s pavement isn’t great – that led me to look for a Class 3 cargo bike with suspension, and for those requirements there is only one choice: the Load 75. After a 5 minute test ride I was hooked: this was exactly what I was looking for. It’s just a phenomenal machine.
Is there such a thing as a Cargo-Bike community?
There is a new group forming in LA called “LA Families Bike” that is made up of families that use electric cargo bikes. But they are few and far between. Riding the Load around LA you feel like a celebrity – few have ever seen a bike like this before; many people stop and ask you questions. Some ask about the price and when I tell them some would say: That is crazy for a bicycle! But when I tell them that this is my car, and ask them to think about how much they spend on their car’s payment, gas, insurance, parking, etc. the bike starts to look like a bargain. However that mindset is a challenge in Los Angeles: bicycles are still not viewed as real transportation solutions. For me, it’s a better transportation solution, because I am never in traffic, the parking is easy and free, and it’s fun!
You founded a political action committee called Streets For All. What can individuals do to raise awareness for bikes?
Join us, get political. I was elected for my Neighborhood Council and I chair our Transportation and Sustainability Committee, which gives me a little bit of influence in my part of the City. I also joined the Bicycle Advisory Committee for Los Angeles, and I am on the Sustainability Council of Metro, our County transportation agency that runs our buses and trains. But Streets for All is my biggest passion. I get to work with an amazing group of people that simply believe that the streets of LA should be safe for all modes of transportation.
We’re not against cars, there’s even a car in our logo. We just don’t think cars should have 99% of the space as they do now, and we don’t think you should have to risk your life to ride a bicycle. Cars have brought so much destruction to cities, I am almost allergic to using a car because of that, except for long distance trips. In nearly every case, a bicycle is a better way to get around Los Angeles, we just need infrastructure that matches the potential and we’ll start running laps around cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Bogotá, and London.
Thanks for the talk, Michael.
Streets For All is a political organization that advocates for better infrastructure and rethinks mobility in LA. With several initiatives and campaigns, it aims to improve transportation for all modes. Activities range from improving individual blocks to creating protected bike and bus lanes to writing statewide legislation.
More information: streetsforall.org