DSC_0110We chatted with Matthew Flesock, Development Coordinator at the UCLA Fund, about his preferred commute mode: Bicycling. He currently lives about two miles from campus and works in the Wilshire Center. Thanks, Matthew, for taking the time to answer our questions!

How long have you worked at UCLA, and have you commuted to campus alternatively that entire time?

I have worked full time at UCLA for a year now. When I started working, I was commuting by car from Orange County and various places in Los Angeles while I found a place to live, which took almost two months. Once I settled down, it took about a month for me to get a bike. I have been alternatively commuting since. Currently, I live in West LA, two miles from campus off of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Do you own a car? What made you choose bicycling over driving?

I do own a car, but rarely drive it now. I use my car for trips out of town and large grocery shopping/errands. Other than that, I bike nearly everywhere. When it came to the decision between biking and driving, it was rather easy to choose biking. With a bike, I don’t have to pay for a parking pass, I barely pay for gas, I can park in my building, and above all, I don’t sit in any traffic and get to work way faster than driving. It was a no brainer.

Can you briefly describe your daily commute and your preferred bike route to campus?

My bike commute takes between 10-15 minutes (20-30 by car because of traffic). Coming from West LA to the Wilshire Center, I spend the majority of my commute on Ohio (less traffic and lights than Wilshire or Santa Monica). I used to take Veteran north, but have since chosen to ride through the neighborhood south of the Wilshire Center (Kelton and Midvale) because of the wider streets and decreased traffic. Before I lived in West LA, I rode my bike from Westwood Village. Unfortunately, while it was locked up on a sign, it slid into the street and was run over by a car – no note left. Rather than purchase a parking pass, I opted to walk to work. While it took nearly 20 minutes, it was refreshing to enjoy the morning air outside as opposed to paying for a parking permit and being cooped up in car to drive such a short distance. A few weeks later, I had a new bike and was back to cycling!

What are some tips you’d give to someone considering biking to UCLA?

There are so many important things to take into consideration. A few big ones would be the following:

  1. Make sure you are VISIBLE! Never ride a bike at night without lights – EVER. Aside from it being illegal, you are essentially invisible to drivers. Bright clothing, such as a cycling jacket, helps a lot too. When you are on your bike, you are so small compared to the cars on the road. You need to stand out.
  2. Map out your route beforehand. Know where major potholes are, where bike lanes are, where the streets are narrow, how traffic is at different times, etc. The more you know about your commute, the better it will be. It is also smart to avoid major streets, especially ones with bus lines because the buses can tear up the asphalt and make the ride very rough.
  3. Be smart and safe. Many drivers in LA are still not used to sharing the road with cyclists. They rarely check their right side mirrors before making a right turn, or don’t signal. Often times, when drivers are checking behind them, they are only looking for cars and can easily miss cyclists (hence the importance of visibility). Drivers sometimes show complete disregard for a bike lane and close out the cycling space. You would be silly to think that riding a bicycle isn’t dangerous, especially in a major city like Los Angeles. The drivers around you aren’t used to you and sometimes don’t have patience for you. That’s why it is so important to ride with caution.
  4. Constantly keep your bike tuned up and carry basic tools and a repair kit with you. You never know when you will need to fix something. I’ve had to deal with everything on a commute, from flat tires and loose brakes, all the way to a shattered crankset (that last one wasn’t easily fixable).
  5. These last things go without saying, but are important nonetheless. Always lock your bike up. ALWAYS. It’s worth every extra dollar to buy a U-Lock as opposed to a cable lock. The extra $20 will be worth it compared to needing a whole new bike and being stranded wherever you are. Lastly, wearing a helmet is way cooler than having a head injury.

What is your favorite thing about bicycling to campus?

There is nothing better than never sitting in traffic. You always get to cycle past it. You get to the front of every single light and stop sign. The money saved is wonderful, but nowhere near as great as the time saved. Since riding, cars have become a constricting space. It is so much more relaxing and invigorating to be outside on a bike.

What’s the most unexpected thing you've came across while biking in LA?

This actually happened a few days ago: I was riding to work and a cyclist was riding a single speed bike was in front of me. When every red light turned green, rather than pedaling to start up, he would just hold onto the door handle of the cars next to him and let them pull him up to speed. Definitely not the safest thing to do, but it was interesting to see – especially the reactions of the various drivers once they realized he was holding on to their cars!

Are you a green commuter? Drop us a line with your story, and we'll feature you on our blog.