In 2015, Adé Neff raised over $15,000 for Street Beats, a community festival that took place in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The event took place at the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Florence Avenue, one of the most dangerous intersections in LA county. Through music, food, and art, Street Beats highlighted the importance of street safety and the power of public space.
“We wanted to show the neighborhood and the City what a safe intersection would look like in our neighborhood. We set up piano keys on the crosswalk and beat machines at the traffic lights, where people could create music while waiting for the lights to change.” The project brought much needed attention to the danger in the area and proved a better, safer alternative is possible. “That intersection is a high injury area. It’s also a major street for high speed drivers. We slowed down the traffic and gave pedestrians a sense of safety when they were trying to cross the street by putting planters out and extending the sidewalks.”
Adé and his fellow event organizers first created the idea for Street Beats when the City of Los Angeles announced a grant opportunity for street safety projects in 2015. They applied for the grant and received funding, but the City required their group to raise an additional $15,000 on their own before accessing funds.
As Adé puts it, “ioby was the perfect way to reach that goal. We saw similar work they were doing in other communities across the nation, so we knew it would be a good fit.” The Street Beats project was funded in its entirety as part of ioby’s Great Streets Challenge, a match program that doubled all donations received.
While crowdfunding with ioby, Adé received training that changed his whole approach to raising funds. “I didn’t realize all of the work that goes into the project before going public. We put a team together and made a plan immediately. We built a schedule, created a timeline, and assigned different tasks to each person. We all came together to make it happen because we’re all committed to being in service to our communities, that’s just who we are.” Beyond building out and identifying a team, Adé says planning asks in advance is another key part of the process. “You need to know who you’re going to reach out to. Who are you asking for $100? Who are you asking for $50? $10? Make those calls and get those commitments so that you actually have funds in the project prior to going live.”
Since 2015, Adé’s bike and pedestrian safety work has continued to grow. Back then he didn’t have a physical bike shop, but opening Ride on! Bike Co-op in 2017 drastically changed his work and expanded opportunities. “The shop allows us to continue work around bike infrastructure and pedestrian safety. We do bike education courses and teach adults how to ride bikes. We also teach people how to ride safely in the streets in addition to doing neighborhood bike repairs.”
The City of Los Angeles has been slower to respond. Despite the success of Street Beats in 2015, the City failed to take action at the highly dangerous intersection of Crenshaw and Florence. Adé says there are a lot of reasons for this lack of response, but the City’s silence is deadly. “People change jobs, budgets change, and people change their minds. But the reality has stayed the same. Last week someone was killed at the same intersection. We’re hoping the city takes action soon.”
In the meantime, Adé continues to fight for safer streets. This summer he’s launching an electric bike project with LACI (Los Angeles Clean-tech Incubator). “We’ll be distributing over 200 electric bikes to communities in South LA that wouldn’t necessarily have access to them. The project will run two years and then hopefully it will be able to sustain itself afterwards.”
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