In real life, when Michelle Moro rides around Los Angeles on her glittery blue bike, she often gets quizzical looks. Meanwhile, commentators on TikTok rave about their rides and dream of a more bike-friendly city together.
Moro bikes everywhere — to pick up lunch, do laundry, go to art galleries — and takes her 13,000 TikTok followers along for the ride. In a city built for cars, their preferred mode of transportation feels like a radical act in many ways. For the past three years, under the TikTok username Miche1ada, she has showcased the good and bad of cycling in LA. In one video, she’s seen rolling past her favorite street stalls in her south LA neighborhood, where well-maintained bike lanes are uncommon, and in another, she’s cut off by a car.
“I know a lot of people think LA isn’t bike-friendly, and I understand we need better infrastructure, but I want to show people it’s possible,” says 29-year-old Moro, who is from South LA stems . She works remotely as an events manager and rides her bike at least 2-3 times a week. She shares a car with her husband, which she also uses for longer journeys or at night.
Michelle Moro and the view from her bike.
Moro’s videos, usually shot on a whim, show what she would do on her folding bike even when no one is looking. In a recent video that has more than 70,000 views, Moro takes a roughly four-mile bike ride to visit a local brunch spot and coffee shop. A tiny white hands-free camera hangs tightly around her neck as she drives down Avalon Boulevard. Her bike is adorned with a baby-pink sticker that reads “Callejera,” a Spanish expression — and her mother’s nickname — for someone who’s always on the go.
During their journey, Moro, wearing a black helmet and platform Converse sneakers, points out a shopping cart and couch blocking a bike lane, forcing them to weave around them. In a soothing, almost ASMR voice, she talks affectionately about a local clothing store and the kindergarten she and her mother attended when she was a child.
For Moro, who made short animated videos about South LA’s rich history long before she started creating bike content, her TikTok videos have given her the opportunity to do three things at once: proudly showcase her neighborhood, less to highlight well-known local companies and to raise awareness of the lack of bicycle infrastructure in their place of residence.
“Although I know that a lot is happening when building up the bicycle infrastructure [here]I still feel like South Central is often forgotten,” says Moro, who wrote the words “South Central” on her forearm.
The dismantling of investment in mobility and safety infrastructure in South LA communities has been going on for decades. But it has become a hot topic in recent months, when the Los Angeles City Council voted to send a measure to the 2024 ballot that — if approved by voters — would seek the installation of bike lanes, bus lanes and others Transportation projects would speed up making the city safer for cyclists, bus drivers and pedestrians. City Council President Nury Martinez has said the council should prioritize investment in neighborhoods like South LA that have been foregone.
The youngest of four children, Moro grew up with bicycles inherited from her older siblings. Biking became more than just a hobby when she started attending UC Santa Barbara. Having neither a car nor a driver’s license, she used her brother’s old mountain bike as her primary means of transportation.
After graduating in film and media studies in 2014, Moro stopped cycling for several years, but picked it up again after a momentous trip to Tokyo in 2019, where she regularly saw locals ride folding bikes that she had never seen before would have.
“Tokyo’s infrastructure was so bike-friendly compared to LA or other American cities I’ve visited,” she recalls. “So come back [to L.A.]I really missed that freedom we had riding bikes.”
When she returned home, she bought a foldable bike and then posted a TikTok video showing how easy it was to disassemble the 34-pound bike and slip it into a shoulder bag. She later sold that bike and bought another foldable bike – the glittery blue one – that weighs 23 pounds.
The video has been viewed more than 220,000 times – her most viewed to date – and Moro has been inundated with questions about the bike, including one from a user asking her to post a video of her riding it. Since then, she has posted dozens of videos of her biking, mostly in South LA but also in other parts of LA County and in Santa Barbara.
Moro says she enjoys riding her bike in LA because it allows her to experience her neighborhood and other communities in a different way.
“If you’re in your car, like getting coffee or something, you just come to the place and then leave. I don’t really interact with anyone,” she says. “You probably hear music with the windows rolled up. You have no outside sounds so you are completely blind to what is going on.
“But when I’m on my bike,” she adds, “I can usually say ‘Hey, good morning’ to my neighbors. I can start conversations with people at random and you see more of what’s going on around you.”
Most days, Moro feels safe cycling in LA, but she’s aware of the dangers cyclists face every day. As of Labor Day, there had been 13 bicycle accidents in LA, resulting in fatalities and 79 serious injuries, according to LAPD data.
Moro shared moments on TikTok when she felt unsafe while riding her bike. As she was driving home from a jazz concert in August, a stranger grabbed her waist from behind. The man, who was also riding his bike, made a scathing comment and then sped away before Moro could react. She initially posted a video on TikTok showing the man’s face – which she captured with her camera – but she has decided to remove it for safety reasons. Some of her followers told her they had similar encounters in the same area near South Los Angeles Wetlands Park.
“It really upset me, but it didn’t change my attitude towards cycling,” says Moro, who usually rides during the day and carries pepper spray and a loud alarm with him. She has since changed her route, but says, “I don’t want to let this experience take away the joy of cycling.”
With the risks in mind, Moro encourages people to heed these safety tips when cycling:
- For new cyclists, choose a route with designated bike lanes to avoid having to ride on the road. There are several mobile apps like Strava that show where bike lanes are located.
- Wear your helmet.
- If you don’t have a rear-view mirror, make sure you check for cars behind you often.
- Don’t be afraid to drive on the sidewalk, which is legal in the city of Los Angeles, as long as you don’t endanger others.
- Note the rush hours.
- Take a small bike pump with you in case you get a flat tire.
Having found her cycling community via TikTok, Moro is hoping to host a group ride in the near future – a request she’s received from several of her followers. She’s also working on a photo project to show the diversity of cyclists in South LA, some riding out of necessity while others ride for recreation.
“People usually think of a cyclist as a white guy in sunglasses and spandex. But in my reality – or at least in many of Angelenos’ realities – it’s community members. It’s the people who come to work,” Moro says. “Most of the time, they don’t wear helmets. They don’t have all that gear, and if they do, it’s makeshift.”
Through the project and her TikTok content, Moro says, “I just want to keep telling stories of people who ride bikes and have been invisible for a long time.”