On a cold, wintry night hoisting brews and glasses of wine around a table at Pappas Artisanal in La Verne are gathered four men who would look perfectly at home at an insurance convention, but place them astride a bike, decked out in their skin-hugging cycling shorts, jerseys, gloves and helmets, and these guys are hell on two wheels.
On this night, anyway, they constitute the La Verne Bicycle Coalition whose aim is to turn La Verne into a cycling city or at least one on par with La Verne’s neighboring cities of Claremont, Pomona and San Dimas.
John Tarrant, Doug Strange, Roy Halberg and Mark Fulgenze are hardly revolutionaries in bike shorts, but, again, they are starting to make demands. They want to make La Verne streets safer for alternative modes of transportation.
“In the cycling world, right now, we’re laggards not leaders,” said Tarrant, adding that La Verne’s bordering cities all boast more and better marked bicycle lanes than their hometown of La Verne.
In a survey that the coalition sent to all of La Verne’s 2017 mayoral and council candidates to get their positions on how to make La Verne a more bike-able city, they noted “40 years ago over 60% of schoolchildren in the United States walked or rode a bicycle to school. Today that figure is less than 10%.
The group clearly wants to put the brakes on that decline and get families riding again.
“Everybody has a bike in the garage, but how many moms are going to get on their bikes and pedal to Sprouts?” Strange asked.
After getting the city’s attention, the La Verne Bicycle Coalition got the city to host a workshop last fall to help pave the way for a more bike-friendly city. About 50 riders showed up.
They have since invited all of the city candidates, including the incumbents, to join them for a bike ride around town, where they will no doubt point out to the politicians the pot holes and the paucity of the city’s clearly marked bicycle lanes.
If the coalition is a bit of a squeaky wheel, they’re okay with that profile. In an election year, they know there is no better time to have their voices heard.
That voice especially wants to be heard as the City decides how to spend the Bicycle Gap Project Grant of $1.9 million recently awarded to improve the city’s bike paths and cycling links to adjoining cities.
“We want to be full partners with the city in this process,” said Halberg.
That process includes forming an Active Transportation Committee that will be fully involved and engaged in the design process, because whose input, after all, should be valued more than the bikers who take to the streets every day to get to school or work or take a healthful, afternoon ride.
The coalition is a growing force to be reckoned with. It now counts about 250 members on its Facebook page, and on any given day, they can turn up at the La Verne Brewing Company on Wright Ave. or the Old Stump Brewing Company on Metropolitan Ave.., just outside the city limits, to talk gears and beers.
The coalition seems to be slowly making inroads with the City and changing the bicycle culture here in La Verne, but it knows it has to pick up the pace. Among its other objectives, it wants the city to be recognized as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” a designation that Claremont now enjoys. It doesn’t want La Verne to be riding in anyone’s shadow.
The coalition definitely appears to have the wind at its back — what the members are calling “the perfect storm.” Besides becoming part of the March 7, 2017 election conversation, Golden Streets 626, during which open stretches of roadway from Azusa to South Pasadena will be temporarily opened for people to walk, jog, skate and bike, is set for Sunday, March 5, 2017. And then on April 22, 2018, the same event is scheduled for La Verne.
From the first mile to the last, the La Verne Bicycle Coalition is clearly on a path to support a more bicycle, pedestrian and transit-friendly La Verne.
If you want to join them, you can by reaching out to John Tarrant at firstname.lastname@example.org.