LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2014 Grants Challenge

R5Y7: bici destino

A solar powered vintage trailer 'pop up' bike shop, education venue and urban retreat.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

A solar powered vintage trailer 'pop up' bike shop, education venue and urban retreat.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA


What is your idea/project in more detail?

A “Pop up” or temporary bike shop & gallery will encourage people to bicycle along the LA river bike path from areas far outside the immediate neighborhood. Through workshops and signage we can reduce the number of collisions between walkers and cyclists – people passing through the neighborhood versus residents. By utilizing a custom vintage style trailer, we’re able to delight the imagination attract artist and design enthusiasts, or simply anyone who loves beautiful outdoor experiences along the LA River. LA City sponsored plans call for art installations, garden projects, infrastructure improvements – but none have included bicycles. That’s crazy!

Let's blend art, education & practical support to make LA the best place to CREATE.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Working with RAC Design Build we are about to what space is available. The custom RV is to be built with local Frogtown business ‘The Happier Camper.’ Beyond being a fantastic neighborhood business, they are at the bleeding edge of creating the most sustainable recreational vehicles anywhere in the world. Ultralight modern materials, crafted in Los Angeles, mean that there is no need for a large truck to transport the trailer, eliminating huge vehicle and fuel costs. Propane tanks are being replaced by solar powered generators. This allows R5Y7: bici destino to operate completely off the power grid without purchasing - or consuming - environmentally damaging fuels. Lights, sound and computers will all work like any other modern space. The usually heavy tasks of hitching the trailer, installation, maintenance and hauling are light and easy enough for usually timid women to handle confidently. We will not need power, water or sewer hook ups making the cost of getting started and operating significantly lower. Our neighbors have offered to be the go-to restroom for any volunteers/staff. For any parties or larger events, port-a-potties would need to be temporarily installed.

At closed hours a permanent bike repair stand would remain available to anyone along the bike path, further increasing our ability to help act as a vital resource beyond the limits of open hours.

Getting the trailer customized to be able to display art, educational materials and bike products will be the longest and most complicated part of becoming fully operational in the community. Alongside the trailer rental bikes are lined up next to the repair stand and storage shed. Attention to design and aesthetics go into everything, including placement of all materials reinforce our idea of the installation as a creative urban retreat. R5Y7: bici destination - for cyclists, artists and LA river lovers. By evoking a retro camping aesthetic the cost of creating a beautiful installation is far less and the sense of relaxation and oasis is enhanced. We take our inspiration from classic American summer camps, with outdoor hanging lights to signify a special event, access to untamed nature as a way to recharge and a judgement free space to learn, create, explore and experiment.

As we begin work we can actively survey local residents, businesses and people along the bike path. This will influence our priorities and focus in scheduling workshops and other outreach in the coming year.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

Bicycles & Art make life better. R5Y7: bici destino provides the on the ground logistical support to get communities living and moving together, while encouraging individual creativity and ambition. Facilitating a ‘car free’ or ‘car lite’ lifestyle means that individuals have more money and time to develop ideas and relationships.

In using an environmentally advanced mobile trailer customized to inspire fun and imagination, we not only facilitate increasing use of the bike path and surrounding area; but pave the way for other creative endeavors to become possible using the same low-cost/highly creative approach to rapid concept development. We will be the first to use this specific combination of an ultralight mobile structure that is fully solar powered and capable of performing all the rugged tasks of mechanical support while also evoking the playful spirit of a vintage travel trailer.

It is possible that such a project might become so successful, that it moves or expands to other neighborhoods; providing the same active transportation support and creative ‘placemaking’ that is rapidly becoming one of the most effective tools in developing healthy, people-first urban development. Regardless of how the trailer, or the concept of R5Y7: bici destino develops, the positive impact of increasing LA River path usage, active transit, education and recreation will resonate with lasting results.

By providing a strong creative vision that empowers other female entrepreneurs and young people interested in bicycles, art or urban development – we cannot yet imagine the ideas and incomes that naturally happen when other people see what is possible!

Whom will your project benefit?

Major beneficiary group: Residents and businesses located in ‘Frogtown’ neighborhood of central/east LA along the LA River.

Secondary beneficiary group: Cyclists and pedestrians from other areas of Los Angeles utilizing the LA River path for recreation or transit.

Additional beneficiary groups: visitors and individuals discovering the project via press coverage, online media and word of mouth.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Nona Varnado, Project Lead/Curator at R5Y7. Executive Director, Bicycle Culture Institute. Founder, L.A. Bike Trains.

Damian Robleto, Marketing Director at RAC Design Build. Co-founder River Wild, LLC. Board member, Elysian Valley Arts Collective.

Derek Michael, Owner/designer at Happier Camper.

Siobhan Dolan, Cook at The Bicycle Kitchen.

Angel Orozco, Owner of Cafecito Organico. Co-founder River Wild, LLC.

Zack X, videographer, custom sound and light installation.

Helen Leung, Director of Social Impact, Mas LA. Board member, Elysian Valley Arts Collective.

Max Kanter, Community Builder at Good Eggs LA, Volunteer Coordinator at Food Forward.

How will your project impact the LA2050 CREATE metrics?

Employment in creative industries

Arts establishments per capita

Concentration of manufacturing activity in LA

Minority- and women-owned firms

Gini coefficient

Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

In cities all over the world there is a pattern of artists finding an inexpensive neighborhood, developing a vibrant cultural scene and then being pushed out as the real estate becomes too expensive for creatives to afford. Now, LA has the opportunity to develop a model of ‘conscientious development’ where artists, developers and residents work together to maintain the authenticity of what makes a neighborhood wonderful, while building new housing and commercial opportunity.

The LA River bike path is just beginning to develop as a transportation and recreational artery for cyclists and pedestrians, but a lack of support services or resources, education and wayfinding signage have led to conflicts among users and an underutilization of the public space. Frogtown is doing a great job establishing itself as an arts district and one of the first parcels on the LA River to engage in innovative placemaking efforts as a model of ‘conscientious development.’ When a neighborhood attracts expensive real estate developers, existing communities and businesses are pushed out leaving only unaffordable condos and frequently a serious lack of transportation infrastructure capable of handling an increased number of residents. Pop up events and temporary ‘placemaking’ resources can inspire residents and visitors to enjoy the neighborhood, build more resilient interconnected communities and provide a unique attraction for other city residents to explore.

Thanks to the LA River bike path travel easily to and from without congestion or parking problems! Through workshops and signage we can address and reduce the number of collisions between walkers and cyclists – or people passing through the neighborhood versus residents.

Education, art and fun really is the winning recipe! Every day as people wandered in to take a look at art, the biggest questions were: How do you get started? How do you bring a bike on the bus? It became clear that our mission was not just to inspire through art, but to provide real help in making these ideas accessible to anyone.

R5Y7: bici destino is the perfect solution for LA now. Using an iconic RV to talk bicycles, we bring in a wide group of people who identify with a car lifestyle. Bicycles and art inspire creativity – shows are ‘open calls.’ Anyone in Los Angeles can have the opportunity to display their work. Open hours with a mechanic, tools available provide new jobs while workshops allow anyone to develop skills necessary to work

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

· Number of Workshop Participants

· Local Resident/Business Survey

· Sales of basic bicycle goods and bike rentals.

Workshops are a direct way of knowing that people are actively interested in our programming and have gone to significant effort to gain the knowledge we hope to share. Even with small informal workshops hosted outdoors we have the potential to train hundreds of new riders, mechanics and creative individuals through regularly scheduled workshops.

With the current situation there’s significant confusion, resentment and concern over who is using the LA River path – and how. We believe that our presence and programming will do tremendous good in improving the current circumstances. Even better, by reaching out early and soliciting feedback before beginning we can make sure we’re being responsive to the most important issues. Once the project concludes, or at the end of 1 year we’ll follow up with another survey asking the same questions so that we can get an accurate idea of our real and perceived impact.

So far everyone seems excited about the idea of being able to get bike tubes and other basic items or rent a bike along the LA River path. By providing that resource we may be hugely increasing the number of trips (frequency) or new riders. But we’ll only know after we give it a try and direct sales are a concrete way to measure that.

Additionally: The Los Angeles Bike Count happens bi-annually. In 2014 the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition included the LA River Path in their count locations. If our project has as significant impact as we are hoping for – it should mean that the traffic that is counted in 2016 is not only greater than the numbers counted in 2014, but that the increase is more significant along the LA River path than in other locations. This will be a powerful data validation that we do not have to perform and gives the project additional credence coming from an established outside party.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

R5Y7: a bicycle gallery at 4357 Melrose Avenue in the East Hollywood neighborhood existed from December 2012 – December 2013. Everything from the learning the response to different kinds of art, demonstrated interest in certain workshops and the infinite details in how to successfully promote and develop attendance was a tremendous learning experience. Beyond the creative, social or technical aspects of running the gallery, the financial side was a very serious lesson in exactly how little money was needed to still pull off quality programing while keeping the lights on.

Lesson #1: Workshops are the catalyst for impact. Workshops should be designed to address the most frequently heard concerns locals describe in a simple DIY format, such as Urban Riding Skills 101, How to Dress for Bike Commuting, Shopping by Bicycle, Fixing a Flat, Fixing Brakes/Gears, How to Keep Your Bike Secure & Taking Your Bike on METRO/Metrolink.

Lesson #2: Even if it’s beautiful or a good idea, it still needs to be financially sustainable. Bikes are thought of as toys, not transportation. Most people think of both bicycles and art as something that should be free or basically free. Unfortunately that means that many great projects never happen or never last long enough to have the impact they are capable of. By looking to sell basic bicycle goods, we are also helping to create a new model of financial sustainability for this kind of community outreach. Similar to what the Bicycle Kitchen and other bike co-ops in Los Angeles are already doing.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Trailer: The highly modular and completely custom 16’ fiberglass trailer is currently in development under the Happier Camper. First production run is scheduled for October 2014. Even with delays and extensive custom work, the R5Y7: bici destino unit will be ready by February, 2015. While the creation of the trailer itself has a complex manufacturing process, it save us in other ways: from not having to handle serious infrastructure work to not needing to transport heavy items across long distances with large, powerful (expensive!) trucks.

We’d like to launch during the Valentine’s season with a “Love” themed promotion campaign. Trailer designer and builder Derek Michael is a passionate collaborator who believes in the R5Y7: bici destino vision for Los Angeles and will grant our project the highest priority in the manufacturing process. Hooray!

Workshops, already tested in the earlier space and currently being expert reviewed will be ready by January 1, 2015 – regardless of the launch date of the R5Y7: destino bici project. Workshops are the long term goal of the Bicycle Culture Institute to provide standardized learning materials. However without R5Y7: destino bici as a venue to teach and refine these lesson plans with 1:1 human interaction, these materials would languish..

Product: Bicycle Culture Institute currently has a wholesale account with bicycle parts distributor based in Portland, Oregon. BCI’s non-profit status limit certain commercial possibilities, but ensure that any sales benefit our community and mission as defined under California tax law. Additional distributor/brand accounts take 30-60 days to establish and receive stock. Most distributors and brands require a physical location. In order for us to secure that location, we need to be able to fund the project. Once a location is finalized, we will be able to choose which distributors and brands we prefer to work with. Thanks to many years of experience working in the bicycle industry, Nona Varnado is able to quickly select the most appropriate vendors and make the most resourceful purchasing decisions.

Volunteers & Unusually Talented Individuals: Both Bicycle Culture Institute and the Bicycle Kitchen have substantial volunteer resources. Through existing relationships many talented people have expressed their excitement at the possibility of making such a project happen.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Fundraising additional funds.

Finishing this application!