The Story Exchange, Nona Varnado, LA Bike TrainsYour Name: Nona Varnado

Business Name: LA Bike Trains, a provider of conducted group bike rides around L.A.

Type of Business: Social Enterprise

Business Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Twitter   @LABikeTrains

Reason for starting
Make commuting by bicycle a fun, practical and desirable transportation option in LA County and beyond. Need to get to work in Los Angeles? Wish your commute was super fun instead of a drag? We provide a rolling party along select routes run by Conductors – experienced urban cyclists – to harness the safety of riding in a group while kicking it up a notch by making the ride a fun social experience. And it’s totally free! All you need to do is submit your email, cell phone number and the route that you’re interested in. If you don’t see a route that works for you – suggest one!

How do you define success?
When Los Angeles County (including South, East, West LA & the Valley) see trips by bicycle on par with Denmark. If you can make bicycling a favorite transportation choice in LA, you can do it anywhere! We aim to be the people who make large scale social change in regards to transportation a known process, so that we can successfully re-orientate our cities to being people first.

Biggest Success
We’re only officially 2 months old and we’ve tripled our routes, overhauled our back end communications, reorganizing the website to optimize participation and have begun collaborating with developers in 5 cities to create a smartphone app that creates a “Next Bus” system for LA Bike Trains participants to track us the same way major bus/subway systems do.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Participation. People love us, but we need more people to show up and ride. We’re doing that through the “Commuter Survey” so people can tell us exactly when/where they need a route developed. We’re updating our website so signing up is easier and less confusing, we’re adjusting our social and traditional media approach and doing live-event participation so communities that are no internet savvy can still participate.

Who is your most important role model?
I believe in a pluralistic approach that is inclusive of people and ideas. We’re inspired and informed by many people in our community, personal histories and every day interactions.