This story first appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine ‘Fixations’ section in November, 2003. I had an awesome, progressive editor at the time, Christina Dalton, who gave me the latitude to dial Angelenos into some of the coolest, most cutting edge shit happening on the fringes of various subcultures in Los Angeles. No idea what Christina is up to now, but high 5, Christina, thanks for that. Much appreciated.
I first heard about the Bicycle Kitchen through friends at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, just down the block from my Franklin Ave. hovel at the time. I made a trip over to the Kitchen, met Jimmy Lizama, and knew I’d met a special, gifted individual who was going to change the world. And with his collaborators, he did. The original Bicycle Kitchen was smug-free, a place for like-minded individuals to share their bike stoke. Later as fixed gear bikes became a fashion accessory and the Kitchen swelled in popularity, the vibe disintegrated and it became an ‘I’m Cooler Than You’ type of scene that I had exactly zero interest in participating in. They still kept getting thousands of people on bikes and stoked, and I applaud that, but they drifted radically from their original core mission in my opinion and let the allure of cool poison the vibe of their operation and what they were doing.
I later wrote about the Bicycle Kitchen for Bicycling magazine, a story that I reported for a full year and then had to wait an additional two full years to see published after I turned in my initial draft. My editor just didn’t understand the import of the story and what a huge cultural watershed the Bicycle Kitchen represented. And he didn’t believe Jimmy’s vision–to get Angelenos on cars and transform transport culture in LA (note: it happened, big time). A revolution was being born, and I was there, living it, participating in it, and helping to make it happen. I’m thankful I got to be there for that. I’m thankful I got the feature in Bicycling published eventually, which turned into a huge battle with the editor who had zero connection to what was happening in the most grass roots, energized, charged scene the cycling community had scene since I started participating in it in 1989. Of course he got it later and would eventually wax eloquent about $10,000 fixed gear bikes like he had been there since the beginning and was living it and got it.
So, yeah, whatever on that, but I’m thankful I lived the real deal, and I’m thankful I met Jimmy Lizama, a complete and total inspiration to me and the thousands of other people whose lives he has touched. Thanks for all you’ve done, Jimmy.
LIVE TO RIDE, RIDE TO LIVE
Metropolis / Fixations
If Jimmy Lizama had his way, the fossil-fuel-burning monsters clogging our streets would be relegated to the junkyard while Angelenos savor the city’s beauty and climate on bicycles. “I want to help working-class people who want to go to the market on their bikes instead of driving 10 miles to go to a store,” says the proprietor of Kill Your Car Courier service and a founding member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition advocacy group.
When Lizama gets up in the morning, he commutes on one of his four bikes to downtown, where he spends his days pedaling subpoenas to areas as far away as East L.A. and Hollywood. Lizama often organizes events for couriers, including a recent scavenger hunt and race that traced the route of Michael Douglas’ character in the 1993 movie “Falling Down.” “I want to get regular folks biking to work,” says Lizama, 28. “My goal is to get bicycle culture going.” And he’s doing just that with his extracurricular venture, the Bicycle Kitchen.
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, still soaked in sweat from a day on wheels, Lizama pedals to the Kitchen, a bicycle repair co-op he created two years ago with fellow courier Randy Metz and freelance photographer Ben Guzman. The operation is crammed into the kitchen of an empty unit in the two-block Eco-Village cooperative near Koreatown, an endeavor sponsored by nonprofit funding and devoted to ecologically sustainable community development. The Kitchen is outfitted with four work stands and every tool an aspiring bike mechanic could need. Hanging in the front room in various states of repair are about 20 found and donated bikes being refurbished for use by rideless Kitchen users.
Neighborhood kids, professionals, couriers, environmentalists, students and blue-collar workers are among those who regularly drop in to learn how to work on their rigs, share expertise and revel in all things cycling-related in a laid-back, learning-friendly atmosphere where the toilet paper in the bathroom hangs on a stand made from a discarded bike fork surrounded by piles of the defunct cycling magazine Winning. It’s a far cry from the shaved-leg snobbery of bike shops that cater to affluent customers and racers. “People can watch someone who knows how to fix a bike, observe the process, and learn how to do it instead of going to a bike shop and paying too much money and not learning anything,” says Lizama, who worked in an art gallery before becoming a messenger.
An all-bike Los Angeles isn’t the only thing cooking in the Kitchen. The last Tuesday of the month, Lizama whips up a fresh batch of dough and bakes pizza for all present. L.A. may not yet be a cycler’s paradise, but all believers are welcome to a slice of the pie.
The Bicycle Kitchen, 117 Bimini Place, #110, is open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.; (213) 386-1002, www.bicyclekitchen.com. Parking in the area is extremely limited, and driving is discouraged.
*NOTE: You can read this on the Los Angeles Times website as well http://articles.latimes.com/2003/nov/02/magazine/tm-fxbikes44