Our community felt a great loss when legendary Los Angeles bicycling advocate, Alex Baum, passed away at the age of 92 this past March. Baum’s life was filled with unique and extraordinary experiences, and his legacy is rich with contributions to the bicycling community.
Baum was born in the Alsace region of France in the early 20’s. He lived there until WWII when he, and his brother Marcel, were imprisoned in
a concentration camp. They survived two years in the camps, up to the end of the war. After the war, Baum returned to France where he played for the French National soccer team until the 1950’s when he relocated to the US and eventually became a citizen. In 1960, Baum moved to Los Angeles to start a catering business that became very successful throughout the Southern California region.
His bicycle legacy began in 1973 when he and then-mayor Tom Bradley founded the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, LABAC. During his committee participation, he was involved in creating bike paths throughout L.A., hiring the first bicycle coordinator for the city, and initiating L.A.’s 1996 and 2010 develop- ment of a municipal Bicycle Plan. Baum made additional gains for cyclists when he served on the 1984 Olympic organizing committee. This involvement with professional racing ultimately funded the development and construction of the Olympic Velodromes in Carson, California and the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was also a huge proponent of women’s bicycling and expanded the events in which women cyclists competed in, including the Women’s Olympic Road Race.
Without the lobbying efforts of Baum, Los Angeles would be a very different place for cyclists. He was directly responsible for bringing the more then 360 miles of bike lanes and over 50 miles of bike paths to Los Angeles county. “He was a voice for cyclists at a time when cyclists had no voice in L.A.,” said Michelle Mowery, the city’s senior bicycle coordinator. “He used to call us the poor stepchild of transportation,” as quoted in his obituary which appeared in the Marth 4th Los Angeles Times.
In 2001, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to dedicate a bicycle bridge in his honor. The Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge spans 120 feet over Los Felix Blvd. at the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5. In 2014, the LABAC also named their annual bike advocacy award after him – the Alex Baum Award for Achievement in Advocacy. Since Baum’s contribution, the LABAC has been responsible for establishing bicycle safety standards and promoting the bicycling community throughout Los Angeles County.
Baum’s accomplishments are numerous and inspirational. Besides a bicycling advocate and participant, Baum was also a father, a grandfather, a husband, Holocaust survivor, successful businessman, and friend to many in and out of the bicycling community. He will be missed.
Find more information on the LABAC on their Facebook.