Bicycling Magazine Expose on Re:Ciclos Founder Jimmy Lizama
Ryan Menekenian’s 2021 Video introduction to Re:Ciclos
Re:Ciclos, a short History
In 2010, Jimmy Lizama’s son, Joaquin Lizama, was born. Being car-free, this new addition to his life presented a logistical issue: how to transport his young son in a city that has been primarily built for automotive transportation. One day, Jimmy bumped into a long john cargo bicycle and the solution was immediately clear.
Not too long after, he was lending a hand wrenching at Flying Pigeon Bike Shop in Northeast L.A. and there he was able to procure a Flying Pigeon “Carrier Pigeon” Long John cargo bike at an affordable price. Being a bike mechanic, he improved upon the bike tremendously and on the first ever CicLAvia on 10/10/10, Joaquin and his dad took their first of thousands of bike rides together. Life was great.
Over the years, those who saw them on the mean streets of L.A. on route to school or the park or to the store, gawked and pointed at the bicycle and some asked how they could get one too. But, in reality, most cargo bikes are prohibitively expensive, often starting at $3,000 for a basic bike. That is simply not feasible for most folks, especially folks who encounter socio-economic barriers.
But Jimmy got to thinking that a long john cargo bike is basically a BMX bike front end mated to a mountain bike rear end, connected by what looks like a “boom tube.” He researched the interweb and found Tom’s Cargo Bicycles, who was doing just that.
But, the bicycle business is very competitive and in a car-centric city, it’s simply too difficult to make a living unless you’re selling expensive bikes that underserved communities cannot afford. However, It seemed possible, through an education and internship approach, that cargo bicycles could be built on a rudimentary level and distributed to community members who cannot afford them along with selling some to those who can afford them.
Re:Ciclos’s first prototype was in 2015 with Calo YouthBuild in Boyle Heights where 3 students and a couple of volunteers worked together over a weekend to build a long john cargo bike. It was definitely a monster bike! But it worked and the entire thing was made of recycled materials.
Fast forward to November 2020, amid the CoronaVirus pandemic, when 17 year old Aidan spent 10 days with Re:Ciclos volunteers to build a long john cargo bike for Ayla, a local bread maker looking to sell her goods at nearby Farmers Markets. “Rosy”, for its bright pink color, was born, mostly of recycled materials, mostly by the hand of Aidan and it was a very stout bicycle indeed. Eventually, Rosy got a mid-drive e-motor installed and Ayla was able to get rid of her car! Aidan has since graduated high school and will be attending a welding program at Los Angeles Trade Tech College with aspirations of becoming an under-water welder.
Aidan, Ayla and Rosy’s story exemplifies the ultimate goal of Re:Ciclos: to touch the lives of multiple community members, from distinct backgrounds, all having a hand in improving their own lives and that of the city and world they inhabit through collaboration, education, recycling, innovation and a little good old-fashioned human-powered elbow grease.
In early 2022, the Re:Ciclos program, through its fiscal sponsor Cooperative Resources and Services Project (CRSP) was awarded a seed grant from the Energy Foundation. Through their generous grant, Re:Ciclos was able to move into an adequate space for fabrication, hired a couple of staff members to assist in the creation of cargo bicycles and engaged with local educational institutions to work with interns. Community members received cargo bicycles to improve their lives, some prototypes were made and today the project works to secure more funding and build more cargo bikes with interns to be able to populate the streets of Los Angeles with these vital, human-powered machines especially as global warming and car culture continue to proliferate.
Re:Ciclos’s work is far from over, in fact, it is only just beginning.
Who are We?
Jimmy Henry Lizama
- Program Director
- Cargo Bike Fabricator
- Outreach and Community Coordination
Jimmy Henry Lizama was born at the LA County Hospital in 1974. He is a life-long resident of Los Angeles who has never owned a car. Which for most who reside in LA would sound at best impressive at worst absurd.
Jimmy has a long history in the bicycle movement in Los Angeles, which started with his father, Jorge Lizama. For the good part of twenty years Jorge commuted by bicycle to Beverly Hills from the LA metropolitan area for work. He would arrive at work every morning by 4:30 AM ready to cook breakfast for the morning shift. Without intending to, Jorge taught his son that the bicycle is a legitimate form of transportation and his example proved that. When Jimmy was twenty-four, his own bicycle journey began when he himself was running late for work. On that day, taking the bus meant being late for work, which was not an option. He then turned to an old bicycle rusting in the garden as his only option. And he recalls, “I actually got to work early. I beat three buses and my journey into bicycle advocacy and transportation began that day.”
In 2010, at the age of thirty-five, Jimmy’s son Joaquin was born. Never owning a car, he needed to figure out a way to still be mobile, active and figure out how to move his son around the city too. His primary motivation for getting into cargo bicycles was for his family, but it soon opened up a slew of possibilities usually facilitated by automobiles as a convenient way of carting basic necessities around in his urban environment. When he discovered the Flying Pigeon bakfiet he realized just how important cargo bikes are for families. He was able to get his hands on one when he was working as a mechanic at the now defunct Flying Pigeon bicycle shop, but that is not a common opportunity for most families. Cargo Bicycles are prohibitively expensive for most families to gamble on if they were not already sold on the bicycle lifestyle, and so he realized there had to be a better way for folks in Los Angeles to have access to cargo bicycles.
Jimmy hopes that Re:Ciclos ultimately can do what LA’s own Bicycle Kitchen has been doing for the past twenty years to get more people to bike as an everyday mode of transportation. “My hope is that with the different formats that we are developing, we create a buzz, a cultural buzz, so that folks really start taking to the streets themselves and not wait for the city to provide facilities to make the bicycle movement happen,” he says. A part of his hopes for Re:Ciclos in creating greater access to cargo bicycles is to encourage being a bicyclist to be less of a hobbyist activity, but actually a fundamentally feasible form of ecological responsible mode of urban transportation. This is in service of recreating the landscape in LA that is safer, accessible and more livable in general. “Bicycles are not the end all solution, but they are a wonderful messenger for a better way for how people can navigate their cities.”
Jeremy Raphael Ezra
- Project Manager
- Bicycle Mechanics Coordinator
- Community Outreach & Social Media ManagerYouth Intern
Jeremy is an LA native that has been deeply involved in the Los Angeles bicycle community for many years. He received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UCLA in 2016 and applies his training to build equitable and care-based communities. He has taught bicycle mechanics as a volunteer at the Los Angeles Bicycle Kitchen since 2016 and has served as the board secretary for the past two years. In addition to teaching bicycle mechanics, he is involved in the day to day operations and management of the organization.
Joining the Re:ciclos team in early 2022, he came into the fold wanting to apply his experience as a bicycle mechanic and community organizer from the bicycle advocate world of Los Angeles. He desires to bring livable city modalities into his home town because he believes addressing issues of mobility and livability in cities is a fundamental harm reduction strategy.
Approaching the issues with his background in anthropology, Jeremy strives to co-create meaningful community based solutions that can work towards creating a more equitable social landscape.
- Bicycle Fabrication Coordinator
- Youth Intern Instructor
Originally from Idaho, Woody graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Environmental Science and has been advocating for bicycles as a form of transportation, environmental protection, social justice and a sustainable future ever since. While living in Los Angeles, Woody has become very involved with the do-it-yourself bicycle repair movement and has been involved with the founding and supporting of many bicycle and environmental organizations, including Bici Libre and Los Angeles Rooted. He also worked at the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) full time for over 6 years teaching bicycle repair and safety to underserved youth in New Orleans. Woody brings his extensive experience in bicycle fabrication and youth education to the Re:Ciclos workshop.
- Business Development Strategist
- Finance and Budgeting Advisor
Megan Graham has been working in the Los Angeles business development scene since 2010. Various roles directing operations and finance for high growth small businesses over the last decade have given her the experience to develop solid foundations for financial infrastructure within new and established companies. Currently at Singer Burke, a tax and wealth management firm, she works with a team to oversee balance sheets, tax filings, financial projections, and day to day operations for a roster of elite Los Angeles area business people. Coupling this experience with a passion for bicycles, and years of activism, volunteering and community organizing within the Los Angeles cycling community has brought her to Re:Ciclos. As a volunteer advisor, she is excited to help Re:Ciclos build a scalable, repeatable and sustainable model for success.
Aiden Balandran was our first youth intern before grant funding allowed us to grow in capacity. Aiden was sixteen in 2019 when in ten days, he, Jimmy and Bea Miller (former Re:Ciclos Fabrication Co-ordinator) built Cargo Bike 0, the oldest cargo bike built by Re:Ciclos: the Long Jane, Rosey (See Ayla’s profile on Clients and Collaborators for more info on the life of Rosey). Aiden was quick to pick up the fundamentals of metal fabrication and bike building. He was connected to Re:Ciclos via Bresee, a community organization in the neighborhood, that provides Gang Prevention Programs to the youth in the area.
Aiden is now soon to be employed at Bresee as Youth Advocacy Coordinator before continuing his education. After his very short time with us he became inspired to become a professional welder and is in the process of enrolling at LATTC where he has aspirations of becoming an underwater welder. We are really excited to work with Aiden again in the future and admirably watch his development!Check out Aiden’s story building Rosey in this short film by Ryan Mekenian:
Yulissa Gonsales is a student from New Village Girls Academy. Yulissa came to us through her school’s internship program designed to provide their students with exposure among a wide range of crafts, arts and practices not found in the current school system.
Quickly she took to bicycles, bicycle culture, mechanics and fabrication with extreme enthusiasm. Welding especially was not something she expected to be doing, but became very enamored as her practice progressed with us.
A student of photography and art, Yulissa took note of the network of bicycle spaces we are connected/work with and walked away from the program with a new perspective on how people can make systemic change. Her own art is infused with the motivation to make changes in her community, and she remarks that real change can be made with people power and getting your hands dirty to make the change and not wait for it.
As a part of our program, she built her own bicycle from a scrap frame and used parts, even building her own wheel fit with dynamo and lamps both front and rear. At the beginning of her program with us, she never thought of riding bikes as a mode of transportation, but now she rides her bike everywhere.
Check out this clip from a short film New Village Girls academy made covering Yulissa’s experience with the Re:Ciclos youth internship:
Partners, past and current:
- New Village Girls Academy
- Bicycle Kitchen/LaBicicocina
- Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
- Bresse Foundation
- Artworx L.A.
- Five Keys Charter
- CSU, Inc
- CALO YouthBuild
- Strong Hand Tools
- Energy Foundation
Re:Ciclos is fiscally sponsored by the Los Angeles Eco Village Institute (CRSP/LAEVI)