Program gives lights to cyclists
The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is launching its City of Lights program to distribute bicycle lights and bike safety information to immigrant cyclists in Los Angeles.
As she commutes from school on her bicycle, Allison Mannos often sees other cyclists riding bikes without lights at night, a frightening prospect on Los Angeles streets.
This is why Mannos, a third-year Asian American studies student, is coordinating a program called “City of Lights” to distribute bicycle lights and bike safety information to immigrant cyclists in Los Angeles.
The program is set to be launched this month by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
“There is an acute problem where a lot of immigrant cyclists lack the important cycle tools to make them safe,” said Dorothy Le, the coalition’s planning and policy director.
These cyclists are also the most likely to be unaware of bike safety rules, as there is a lack of communication and bilingual education regarding bike safety, Le said.
Though other cities have developed light distribution, both Mannos and Le said that “City of Lights” is one of the first of its kind in that it specifically targets cyclists from the immigrant population.
The “City of Lights” program will be run by volunteers, who will distribute bicycle lights in areas with high levels of immigrant cyclists. The program targets neighborhoods across Los Angeles county, including Hollywood, Koreatown and Van Nuys. The volunteers will also discuss bike safety with cyclists receiving lights, Mannos said.
The new program’s first volunteer training session, which was held in Los Angeles on Friday night and attracted around 15 people, showed a high level of interest in the program, she added.
“There is a great desire and movement to help immigrants,” Mannos said.
She added that the program gave those interested in cycling a way to join the movement in a way they could relate to personally.
Most of the volunteers in attendance at the training session were bilingual cyclists themselves, she said.
The sites targeted by the program are based on an outreach project completed by the coalition six years ago, which studied cycling safety in 60 low-income areas across Los Angeles county, Le said.
However, volunteers who attended Friday’s orientation session were eager to have a certain amount of flexibility in distributing lights, she added.
Molly Arevalo, an avid cyclist and bilingual elementary school teacher who is one of the program’s volunteers, said that volunteers felt they should be able to distribute lights wherever they saw a need for them.
People in need of lights could be cycling in any part of town, particularly if they are riding to work, she added.
Because of this, Mannos said that volunteers would be encouraged to distribute lights in areas outside those specifically designated by the study, provided they keep record information on cyclists who receive lights.
This information could help the coalition to “affect policy on a larger level,” said Le, who hopes that statistics gathered by the survey will promote the implementation of free safety workshops as well as the development of bike facilities in low-income areas.
Both Le and Mannos said that they hope the program will continue, not only to distribute lights to those who need to them, but also to promote awareness in the community as a whole.
“There is a disconnect between immigrant cyclists and more affluent cyclists,” Mannos said. “We want this program to connect the cycling community.”
Dorothy Le graduated from UCLA in 2007 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Geography/Environmental Studies.
Published: Wednesday, February 04, 2009