Stella Vaughan-Verk and Councilman Mike Bonin lead the way during a community bike ride she helped organize

Stella Vaughan-Verk and Councilman Mike Bonin lead the way during a community bike ride she helped organize

Thanks in part to the work of one local student, more than 100 people recently joined L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin for an exploratory community bike ride around Del Rey and Playa Vista.

As part of her sixth-grade Environmental Stewards Project earlier this year, 12-year-old Westside Neighborhood School (WNS) student Stella Vaughan-Verk wrote to Bonin about challenges for bicycle and pedestrian access in the area.

The project, developed by WNS sixth-grade dean and science teacher Kaitlin Lester, has two guiding questions for students:  (1) How can I make a difference in my community? (2) What impact do my actions have on the environment?

The work offers students the opportunity to focus on environmental issues close to their hearts. From making small changes at home to participating in restoration work or beach clean-ups and writing letters to government officials, students realize they can have a direct role in improving their environment.

“Everyone was planting a tree; I wanted to do something different,” said Vaughan-Verk, who enjoys biking — when she has the time — with family, friends and her pet boxer Roxanne.

Vaughn-Verk’s letter led to a meeting with Bonin, and later she and father Jonathan Verk co-coordinated the ride, which launched from the WNS campus just south of Ballona Creek.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Stella for demonstrating great initiative to inspire and help with such a successful event,” WNS Head of School Brad Zacuto said.

Supporters included Bike Attack, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition and L.A. Metro Bike Share as well as TOMS Shoes, Priority Bicycles, Deutsch, Wiredrive, Maser Condo Sales and CTRL Collective.

Before the ride, Bonin acknowledged the risks associated with biking on Centinela Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard, the only access points for bikers crossing Ballona Creek on their way to Playa Vista.

Community members have long been requesting a safe route connecting Playa Vista and Del Rey to the Ballona Creek bike path. Last year local architect Paul Howard proposed a pedestrian/cyclist bridge which might reuse the existing concrete supports of the former L.A. Pacific Electric Red
Car crossing.

Bonin included a bridge in Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan (adopted in June 2016) so the project’s design and construction could be eligible for Metro and grant funding.

”Providing access to regional bike paths like this encourages more biking and walking, helping to take cars off the road and move Los Angeles toward a more sustainable and less-congested transportation future,” Bonin said.

— Regan Kibbe