So yesterday morning the phone rings and its neither a telemarketer nor some misdialer looking for whatever credit union has a phone number that’s one pesky digit different than mine. This is remarkable enough in its own right. But even more surprising I find the person I’m speaking to is basically The Dude of bicycling and bicycle advocacy in Los Angeles.
“Is this the Will Campbell who wrote the article in the Los Angeles Times?” asked a gravelly voice with an accent and pronunciation that sounded not entirely unlike Henry Kissinger (who was apparently sightseeing at the Pantheon in Rome while we were there May 12… but that’s another story entirely).
“Yes it is,” I answered.
“My name is Alex Baum,” came the reply and I paused, not only wondering if it was the Alex Baum, but how he got my phone number.
“Is this the Alex Baum that the L.A. River Bikeway bridge over Los Feliz Boulevard is named after?”
“Yes it is.”
Whoa. See, at risk of hyperbole Baum is pretty much the granddad of cycling in Los Angeles. Founder of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) developed under Mayor Tom Bradley in 1974 and its current chairman, among other acheivements he’s credited not only with the development of hundreds of miles of bike paths but also for prodding the MTA to fund millions of dollars of bike projects annually. That, and he fought with the French resistance against the nazis in World War II.
In January my councilman Eric Garcetti’s website
pointed readers to a profile in the Jewish
Journal of the 84 year old cycling advocate.
In a nutshell, Baum congratulated me on the column and expressed his appreciation for what I had to say and for having the courage to say it. He told me the BAC is in the midst of revisiting the city’s bicycling plan and looking at alternatives such as those I suggested in the Times piece. When I responded that it was an honor to be contacted by someone who’s done so much to promote and expand bicycling across the city’s greater grid he waved off the compliment.
“What’s important,” he said, “is that there are people like you willing to be active in your advocacy and vocal with your ideas.” Then he invited me to attend the next BAC meeting Tuesday June 05 at 7 p.m. on the 15th floor of the LADWP building downtown.
I told him I would make a point to be there.