12 Ways Cycling in Los Angeles has Changed My Life for the Better

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Like most angelenos, I used to only ride my bike sporadically and even felt like a second class citizen whenever I tried. As it became clearer that in certain cases I could travel faster by bike than any other form of transit, I decided to drive less and burn more calories in the process.

Fortunately, I had great timing as cycling has been on the upswing, not only in cultural popularity but in the real world dollars that local government is putting in to encourage it’s citizenry to go it on two wheels.


Little did I know there were so many side benefits to cycling in Los Angeles, but it turned out that riding a bike really enriched the way I enjoyed our fair city.

That said, I thought it useful to catalog a few of these points and let you about more of the upside. In some cases it’s specific events I’ve grown to love, in others it’s a shift in my habits and lifestyle that’s really made a difference.

I’ve broken the below list into 12 items, so if even if just a couple of them resonate with you, then maybe cycling is something that’s worth your time to invest in.

Never know until you try, right? Right.

Now on to the list!

1. Discovering neighborhoods

Many parts of Los Angeles were built well before we had freeways. You’ll find these neighborhoods to have a more pedestrian scale than a place like, say, Northridge. The streets are accommodating enough to cyclists that you’re encouraged to explore. Heading to such areas as Lincoln Heights, San Pedro, Venice, Highland Park or Wilmington, you’ll have the urge to venture down side streets and discover parts unknown.

2. Meeting new people

If you’ve ever ridden in any kind of group ride, you’ll find that cycling is the most sociable way to burn calories. Not only does it feel safer to share the street together, but you are inclined to speak to the person next to you. Whether you’re with a group that’s competitive or simply just for touring, most rides end with at least coffee or beer.

3. Hills. Hills!

If you want to improve as a cyclist, it’s important to go upward as well as outward. We have many long iconic climbs, such as Mount Baldy, Latigo Canyon and Angeles Crest Highway, that rivals Europe’s best. Los Angeles also has some of the steepest streets in the country, highlighted in a yearly challenge called Feel My Legs, which is an accomplishment just to finish.

View from Mt. Lee
A view from the top of Mt. Lee. Credit: James Gubera via flickr

4. CicLAavia

While not exclusively for cyclists (but they are the majority), there is no other event that brings together Los Angeles more than CicLAvia. With an average of 100,000 participants, this celebration that showcases various parts of the city while attracting a large cross-section of Angelenos. It’s not a race nor ride, but an experience.

5. Making our streets safer

Bike lanes are proven not only to make our streets safer for people who cycle, but for pedestrians and drivers as well. Narrower lanes requires more attention from those behind the wheel and reduces the likelihood a car will speed. Keeping our streets from functioning as mini highways also reduces noise and helps land values.

6. Gasoline savings

Even if you don’t drive your car that far, you’d be surprised how much money you save replacing a few trips with your bike. Even if you’re traveling a couple of miles, you’re paying for your car to sit in traffic. When I made the shift, my gas usage was cut in half. That’s money in MY pocket!


Cyclavia 2012
CycLAvia 2012. Credit: Melissa Wall via flickr

7. Metro

Fact: You can reach many places in rush hour faster on the subway or rapid buses than you can driving. Bringing your bike along can save you even more time if you take it on a train or put it on the bike rack. Consider going multimodal to replace driving on the 101, 10 or 110 freeways.

8.Don’t have to look for parking

How many times have you done the George Costanza and made concentric circles looking for a parking space? More than you would probably admit. Count the number of errands or meals you make near your home and weigh the five minutes you save driving versus the extra time looking for a parking space. Think about this on your next trip to Trader Joe’s.

9. Tour of California

The Tour of California has grown to such prestige that you’ll see some of the world’s top riders, including Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and international superstar Peter Sagan. There is no cost to watch and no assigned seating. Watching these riders compete up close is a unique experience that’s hard to find in all of sport. My favorite spot is heading to the toughest climb of the stage, where you’ll find a festival atmosphere running alongside the peloton. It can’t help but inspire you to become a better rider.

Tour of California
This year’s Tour of California featured Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (yellow) and 3-time sprint winner Peter Sagan (green). Credit: Zachary Rynew

10. Waving

It’s also an unwritten rule to wave at passing cyclists. Even if you’re riding a high end bike coming across a barely functional cruiser, it’s good etiquette to raise a hand or give a nod to everyone. It makes you feel like you are part of a community. When drivers wave at other drivers, it involves fewer fingers.

11. Support your LBS

One thing is certain when you own a bike, it’ll have to be fixed at some point. The majority of places that you’ll seek service are small businesses or as the phrase goes, your Local Bike Store. It’s easy to form a relationship with most of them because simply these people love cycling. It’s like having your own local bar where everyone knows your name. 

12. Being a kid again

Do you ever see anyone unhappy when riding a bike? No. It goes back to that feeling when we were children. As an adult, many of us lose touch as responsibilities take over, but it only takes a short stroll to regain that sensation. Now that my daughter is turning two, she points to my bike and says, “Bok!” and I know it’s time to take her for a spin in the trailer. It’s heartwarming to see that feeling passed on.

Do you have story to share about cycling in Los Angeles? Did you recently pick up the hobby or are you a lifelong cyclist? Let us know in the comments below!


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