Why We’re Thankful for Alex Baum’s Bicycle Advocacy

On Thursday, December 13th Councilmember Tom LaBonge will rededicate the Baum Bicycle Bridge and celebrate the contributions of Alex Baum to his adopted home, Los Angeles.  Mr. Baum has been a resident of the City of Los Angeles for over 50 years and was instrumental in laying the foundation of the now thriving bicycle program being implemented by the City’s Department of Transportation. In this post, Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery describes Mr. Baum’s personal history and contributions to bicycling in Los Angeles and the United States.

Alex Baum, center right, with, (from left to right), Councilmember Marvin Braude, LADOT General Manager Don Howery, and LADOT Traffic Engineer Tom Jones. (1984).

Born in Germany but raised in Vic-Sur-Seille, France, Alex Baum was raised by his maternal grandparents and three uncles who were leaders in their community and in the sporting life of greater France.  Alex remembers being involved with early Tour de France processions and their family playing host to notable athletes of color such as Jessie Owens who were unable to find other accommodation while competing near their home.

With the outbreak of WWII, Alex and his brother were active in the French Resistance movement and were captured by the Germans while attempting to guide an English pilot to safety in Spain.  Alex and his brother Marcel spent the rest of the war in Peenemunde and Dora Mittlebau concentration camps in Germany building, and sabotaging, V-2 rockets with the German war effort.

After the war Alex and his brother returned to their home in Vic and for a time Alex played soccer for the France National Football Team.  After some time he and his brother immigrated to the United States, initially settling in Chicago, where he met his wife, Rachel.  After establishing a gourmet food shop and meat market in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Alex and his young family which now included a son and daughter, sought a warmer climate and relocated to Los Angeles in 1960, where Mr. Baum built a successful catering business.

As Mr. Baum’s business grew and became prosperous, he was able to focus some of his time on his love of sport and became more involved with cycling on the local, national and international levels in the United States and internationally.  Active as a member on the Boards of Directors for the Encino Velodrome and the United States Cycling Federation (later USA Cycling); Alex was also the first American appointed to the Union Cycliste International, the international governing body for cycling located in Switzerland, where he served as a board member for many years.

L.A. River Path opening with city officials and LADOT bicycle team. (2000).

When Los Angeles began preparing its bid for the 1984 Olympics, Alex sold his business interests and was appointed to the local Olympic organizing committee.  In his role on the committee he was a strong supporter of women’s cycling and was instrumental in bring new events for women – including the women’s road race – to the Games.  He was also involved in securing the 7-11 sponsorship to the Los Angeles Olympic committee which funded the development and construction of the Olympic Velodromes in Carson, California and at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  For his dedication to the 1984 Games he was awarded one of the Olympic Torches carried into the Coliseum for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  He was also influential in the development of the new indoor ADT Velodrome in Carson as well as the AEG Tour of California international bicycle race.

Alex, though his service to Mayor Tom Bradley, oversaw the development and formation of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee (LABAC) which he chaired for over 30 years.  The committee was involved with the first ordinance requiring bicycle parking in new development in Los Angeles; initiated the 1996 and 2010 Bicycle Plans; was a key player in the movement to create the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path; and was responsible for the hiring of the first Bicycle Coordinator for the City.

Councilmember Tom LaBonge with Alex Baum, author Michelle Mowery, and Bicycle Advisory Committee member Larry Hoffman on Tour LaBonge. (2010?).

Mr. Baum served the City of Los Angeles under the administration of four Mayor’s – Bradley, Riordan, Hahn, and Villaraigosa – and turns 90 this December.  Please join us at the dedication ceremony to be held on Thursday, December 13th at 11 AM on the north side of the Baum Bicycle Bridge on the Los Feliz Blvd at the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path.

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