Victor Omelczenko

Victor Omelczenko (Michael Haddad Photography)

1) When did you start riding a bicycle in West Hollywood, and why?

I started riding a bicycle in West Hollywood in 2000 when I arrived from Washington D.C. for a nine-month sabbatical at USC. I was already an experienced bike commuter in D.C. and after subletting an apartment near Plummer Park, I found that getting to campus by bike made my commute easier and less stressful than using a car.   When I permanently relocated to WeHo in 2002 near Doheny and Elevado, I was thankful for the bike lanes and route along Santa Monica Boulevard, which led me east to work in downtown L.A.  That my building had shower facilities certainly encouraged my using a bike for the 11-mile ride downtown  

2) Do you use your bike for special purposes such as exercise, recreation, going to the gym, etc.?  Or do you use it pretty much all the time?

I use my bike pretty much all the time to get around WeHo.   

 3) Are there special times (after dark, for example) when you don’t ride your bike?

I ride my bike at all hours, but only after making sure that I have working lights front and back and wear a helmet.  Riding at night, especially during the spring when the scents of night flowering jasmine and citrus blossoms waft through the air, is an exhilarating experience.  Fewer cars on the road at night actually make me feel safer, and I have been able to get to the Santa Monica Pier in 45 minutes at night. 

 4) What do you do if you’re traveling outside the city limits?  Do you still bike?  Or do you take the bus or use Uber or Lyft?

I do still own a late-model car but drive it only about 2,500 miles a year, for occasional trips out-of-town to the desert or up north, or for biweekly trips for bulk items and bargains at Costco.  I occasionally take the local bus downtown to cultural events, and I still call Independent Cab for the set rate from WeHo to the airport.  To visit friends in Long Beach, I ride my bike to the Hollywood/Highland Metro Stop where I board the red line to downtown to then transfer to the blue line onto Long Beach.

5) How do you handle tasks like going to the laundromat or shopping for groceries? 

I use the laundry room in my current apartment building, and I walk to the nearby grocery stores, fine ethnic delis, the post office and cleaners in the Fairfax/Santa Monica neighborhood.  It’s good to live near a vibrant transit hub.

6) What are the pluses of experiencing West Hollywood on a bicycle?

Seeing things up close and personal, and getting to places and meetings quickly make riding a bicycle in WeHo a joy and a timesaver.  That WeHo now has dedicated bicycle lanes along Santa Monica Boulevard west of City Hall and along sections of San Vicente Boulevard makes bicycling safer and accessible to more folks.

 7) What are the negatives of trying to negotiate the city on a bicycle?

Biking along our iconic Sunset Strip can be somewhat fraught what with the traffic and lack of bike lanes. But I have biked along the sidewalk there, making sure to be going in the direction of traffic as the rules require and being careful about pedestrians.  While I appreciate Fountain Avenue now having bike sharrow signage, I still feel like it’s actually the Fountain FREEWAY instead, and I use it for bicycling only during less busy weekend days. 

 8) What do you think the city needs to do to encourage more people to ride bikes rather than drive cars?

The city should continue to expand its network of bicycle lanes and it should paint those lanes green as neighboring Beverly Hills has done.   Also, every opportunity should be taken to teach children how to ride safely and enjoy a bike.  I started bicycling in my hometown of Detroit with boyhood friends on our forays to local car factories, where we could climb fences to see new models roll off the assembly lines.  As my college years and early jobs evolved, somehow bicycling took a backseat.  But Ibelieve that learning how to bike when you’re a kid makes it second nature for you once you get back on one years later, as I did.  Biking in an urban setting when young gave me the confidence to get back on a bike, especially when commuting by car became wearisome and when the infrastructure, like in Washington D.C., West Hollywood and Los Angeles encouraged me to get back onto a bike.   

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About Victor Omelczenko
Victor Omelczenko has lived in West Hollywood going on two decades during which he’s served as a Public Facilities Commissioner, an advocate for bicycling and historic preservation, and someone interested in things occurring beyond his nice rent-stabilized courtyard building in Center City.

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