Tafarai Bayne is as serious about cycling as it gets — but you won't find him in a pair of Spandex shorts. He's more likely to be donning a fedora, scarf and button-up shirt, and it's a given that his shoes and socks will, as he says, "pop."
Born in Watts and raised in the Crenshaw district, Bayne has long been an avid cyclist. More recently, the 34-year-old has been able to parlay his love of cycling into a full-time job.
For nearly half his life, Bayne has worked in the nonprofit sector. After founding EMH Creative, a nonprofit-focused consultant group that handles planning, media and design, he spent two years working with the California Endowment on its Building Healthy Communities initiative in South L.A.
In January he signed on as chief strategist for CicLAvia.
Prior to joining CicLAvia full-time, Bayne worked with the nonprofit for five years, serving on its board of directors and helping bring the organization's signature open-road bike ride to Leimert Park and Central Avenue in 2014.
"Being on a bike gave [me] a really strong visceral connection to places," he says. "You really get to know a neighborhood from the bike more than you do from driving around in a car."
Modeled after a weekly event in Bogotá, Colombia, CicLAvia has shut down a total of more than 133 miles of L.A. streets in its seven years of operation. About 1.25 million people from across SoCal have gathered to bike, walk, skate or just hang out in neighborhoods from the San Fernando Valley to Culver City.
CicLAvia has continued to grow, with four events last year and five planned for 2017, Bayne says. And it continues to show L.A. residents that cycling can be a way of life even in this car-dominated city.
"I think it's critically important that we carve out space in Los Angeles and show people what it's like to live pluralistically, live together, live not in fear, and to trust each other," says Bayne, who's currently serving as vice president of the Board of Transportation Commissioners for L.A.'s Department of Transportation.
In that role he can influence policy from the inside. He works with city officials on mobility improvement plans such as Vision Zero, which aims to have zero traffic-related deaths in L.A. by 2025 through better street design, more effective community outreach and additional funding to transform and redesign L.A.'s streets.
Throughout the years he's spent promoting cycling and community engagement, Bayne has helped loosen the death grip that cars have had on L.A. by making bike lanes safer and bringing them to communities such as South L.A.
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Along with changing the way this city moves, he has his sights set on changing the way it operates. He's helped orchestrate events like Powerfest, a music and arts festival put on by the South L.A. Community Coalition. Admission is free, and the event promotes civic engagement through efforts such as voter registration.
"It only takes like 3,000 votes to win a council office in South L.A.," Bayne says. "It doesn't take that much to shift politics in this city, if you really wanted to make a move on it."