Bicycling in the Name of Love … and Advocacy

A UCLA student will lead a group of bicyclists to LAX on Sunday to safely drop off his sweetheart

All Omari Fuller wants to do is drop off his sweetheart at the airport.

Coming from Westwood, the carless UCLA graduate student has a few options -- he could take the Flyaway shuttle to LAX, which departs hourly and costs $5 each way. He could take other public transit, and deal with the labyrinth of confusion that is Los Angeles transportation.

Or he could use the method of transportation he's most comfortable with -- bicycling.

For Fuller and his girlfriend, Aileen Chang, biking is the best way to move.

Although the relationship is long-distance, the Oakland natives take rides whenever they're together. Up north they take 50-mile rides along the coast with friends, and in Los Angeles they've bicycled along the Los Angeles River Path on the way from Long Beach Airport to Fuller's West Hollywood home.

Chang has a suitcase that attaches to her bicycle, trailing along behind like a wagon. The bicycle folds, so it can fit in her suitcase after the ride.

But the problem with bicycling to LAX is the lack of safety, Fuller said. The busiest streets approaching LAX are set up like freeways, so it would be extremely dangerous for one or two people to bike there alone, he said.

So Fuller came up with the idea to make the bicycle ride into an event. A member of Your Bicycle Coalition at UCLA, he shared the idea with peers and has reached out to bicycling groups in the area. There's no formal RSVP process, but Fuller said he expects about 50 people to show up Sunday morning.

While Fuller said his primary goal for organizing the trip is to have a good time and show people they could bicycle anywhere in the city, he also sees this as a way to draw attention to the need for bicycle-friendly roads in Los Angeles.

"The way (LAX) is set up…is really unpleasant," Fuller said. "What I want people to come out of this with is the recognition and the awareness that they can bike on every street, and at every opportunity we should be pushing for bike lanes on every street."

There are currently bicycle lanes on Pershing Drive and Westchester Parkway along the back of LAX, said Devin Gamming, Los Angeles World Airports rideshare program manager.

Gamming said bicycling within the airport is dangerous because drivers often don't know where they are going. She said her office requested that the city of Los Angeles add bicycle lanes or special access routes in the less busy streets around Century and Sepulveda boulevards, which directly approach the airport. If the city agrees, the airport will build a bicycle lane from Century Boulevard into the airport loop because that is where its property begins, Gamming said.

"I'm not worried about bicyclists, they know what they're doing," Gamming said. "But people driving in the airport never know where they're going."

Chang, who still lives in Oakland, gets a shock every time she visits Fuller and experiences the hostility in the car-dominated city. She said in Oakland, drivers are courteous even to the point of fault when it comes to bicyclists, always giving them the right of way even when they aren't supposed to.

Chang sees more than just an environmental benefit to using bicycles over cars.

"(Cars) are metal, plastic, glass bubbles," she said. "You don't communicate by talking, you communicate by honking, or stomping on your accelerator, or hitting the brake pads."

She sees bicycling as a way for people to increase communication-instead of yelling through a window after getting cut off, people must actually confront one another.

"With bicycling, you're exposed," Chang said. "Just the act of talking to someone in your community is lost in the culture of urban centers, and it's something I think we need more of."

The group will meet at Helen's Cycles on Gayley Avenue at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, where they'll be greeted with free bicycle checkups from employees before the ride.

From there, the bicyclists will embark on their 10-mile journey to the airport. Some will just be following in the pack, while others don pun-filled bicycling signs.

The one Fuller's thinking of?

"Love doesn't get stuck in traffic."

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