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A Library for bike riders brings 250 e-bikes to South Los Angeles

By Andrew J. Campa Staff Writer

April 17, 2024 3 AM PT

South Los Angeles resident Channing Martinez recalls the days years ago when he couldn’t find enough change for the bus and was forced to hop on his bicycle.

Martinez, 36, co-director of the Labor Community Strategy Center, a think tank and advocacy organization for working-class families, rode roughly seven miles to El Camino College in Torrance from his home near Florence Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard. He then transferred to Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester, which was a nine-mile trek.

“It was a heck of a ride that I’ve never forgotten,” Martinez said. “But in those days, I had no choice. I had to get to school.”

Today, Martinez’s community organization is one of several groups behind a plan to bring transportation access to South Los Angeles in the form of e-bikes.

“E-bikes can support a wide range of personal transportation needs while reducing car trips, pollution, and overall congestion on streets,” Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “The e-bike lending library will make this option affordable and accessible to residents of South L.A.”

The library is part of a two-year pilot program funded by $2.7 million from the Air Resources Board. The money covered the purchase of the e-bikes and insurance along with maintenance and repairs, obligatory and complementary training for all participants, and additional support.

Kinman noted one advantage of e-bikes over non-motorized bicycles is the less-strenuous, lower-impact physical activity. They are equipped with a motor to enhance and ease pedaling.

Tricycles are also available for those uncomfortable with two wheels, Kinman said.

After the initial two years of funding end, grants will be provided by the state’s Strategic Growth Council under its Transformative Climate Communities Program.

For Martinez, the e-bikes not only address mobility issues, but also enable people of color, particularly the Black community, to circumvent the historical ills of the bus and metro system.

Martinez, a longtime Bus Riders Union member, said his group found that 50% of all arrests and citations made in Los Angeles transit over the last decade or so were against Black people.

“This is an opportunity to break away from those systems of criminalization and dehumanization,” said Martinez, a member of the Garifuna people and the queer community.

Martinez also appreciated the forward-thinking aspect of e-bikes. He believes that as more people grow comfortable using the vehicles and potentially getting away from cars, such a movement will force the city to implement more bike-accessibility projects.

“The infrastructure is not there yet in Los Angeles,” he said. “But if we continue to grow, things will have to change.”

The Strategy Center is excited to be one of eight organizations in the South-Central LA Power Up coalition to host a library of 250 E-Bikes that will be free for South LA residents for the first 6 months of the program.

Participants can visit one of 6 South Central Community hubs to check out a bike including: Strategy & Soul (The Strategy Center), Ride-On Bike Co-Op, Esperanza Community Housing (Mercado La Paloma), Village Market Place (CSU LA), Ride With Us Bike Shop, Trust South LA.

To learn more about how you can participate in South Central Power Up through the Strategy Center Please get in touch with Channing Martinez, or use the link below to sign up.

Channing Martinez, Co-Director Labor Community Strategy Center 

Channing (AT) thestrategycenter (DOT) org | Office: (213) 387-2800