Interview with Tom LaBonge

“…[it’s] to celebrate the city.  There’s no better way to celebrate this city, or any city, than through bicycling.  You really get to see things you don’t see in a car.” -District 4 CM Tom LaBonge

Council Member LaBonge at Bike to Work Week in years past

LADOT Bike Blog recently had the pleasure of speaking with District 4 Council Member Tom LaBonge.  The Tour LaBonge, visions of LA’s bike future, Critical Mass, and Mick Jagger, all below the fold…

LADOT Bike Blog: We’ve covered a few of the Tour LaBonge rides on LADOT Bike Blog (here and here) over the last few weeks.   We were wondering: when did you start the Tour LaBonge?  What was the impetus for it?

CM LaBonge: Well, I’ve been doing Tour LaBonge for the last 4 years.  I had previously coordinated all of Mayor Riordan’s Tour LA rides, all the routes and activities.  I really liked [on those rides] getting out to meet people and engage, to share bicycling with them.

LADOT Bike Blog: What’s your favorite thing about the Tour LaBonge right now?

CM LaBonge: You [get to] bring people together.  There are people who come up to me afterward who say, “I’ve never seen Los Angeles like this before”.  There are some people who ride every day, but there are lot of people who don’t; I really enjoy getting to share the joy of bicycle riding with them and see their reactions.

LADOT Bike Blog: On previous Tour LaBonge rides, you often like to stop and talk to the riders about points of interest.  Is that something you prepare before the rides?

CM LaBonge: Most of it is spontaneous.  I like to point out on the tours “somebody lived here” or “something took place there”.  You’d like people to know how special a neighborhood is.  We’re all normally in such a rush.  But with the summertime and daylight savings, we can have a good time.  It’s a fun ride and not a speed ride.

LADOT Bike Blog: Where are the rest of the Tour LaBonge rides happening this summer?

CM LaBonge: On Wednesday the 14th we’ll be riding out to the LA River and Griffith Park, and on Wednesday the 21st we’ll be doing a ride around Hollywood.

LADOT Bike Blog: Switching gears, are there any upcoming bike projects that your office is really excited about?

CM LaBonge: We already did a Tour LaBonge ride on 4th Street, but I’d like to ride with LADOT officials and advocates from the LACBC to get ideas on how to additionally implement and improve 4th Street as a Bicycle Boulevard.  I also want to work with Council Members Rosendahl and Reyes on implementing another Bicycle Boulevard, this one from “Paramount to Pink’s”.  It will go from Paramount Pictures at Hollywood & Gower and then travel along Waring Avenue to Pink’s Hot Dog Stand at Melrose & LaBrea .  We’re planning more avenues like that to encourage more bicyclists.

(Ed. Note: Using Waring as a bicycle boulevard was also covered by Taylor Nichols of the Hollywood Examiner)

LADOT Bike Blog: What would you consider essential to the future of bicycling in LA?

CM LaBonge: The Number One thing that Los Angeles must do right now is finish the LA River Bikeway, all the way from Canoga Park, through the Sepulveda Basin, through our existing LA River bike path around Griffith Park, through the central part of the city and connect with the existing bikeways that Long Beach and the County of LA have built.  That’s #1.  Number 2 is continuing to build these Bicycle Boulevards that complement and encourage bicycle safety.  Most importantly, we need to raise awareness for drivers so they know to share the road.

LADOT Bike Blog: How did you feel about the LAPD’s involvement in last month’s Critical Mass ride?

CM LaBonge: It was great.  Everybody has got to work together to improve safety for bicyclists and to improve the safety of the ride.  It’s important to create good relations between the police department, who are there for us 24 hours a day, and the bicycling community.

LADOT Bike Blog: Any closing statements you want to make to LA’s bicycling community?

CM LaBonge: Report potholes early and often.  And just remember what Mick Jagger said “So, if you’re out tonight, don’t forget, if you’re on your bike, wear white”.

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